Classifications threaten independent contracting

Guest Column:
Ray Mathieu
It’s no secret that Rhode Island’s economy has been struggling for years and that much of our woes are self-inflicted: High taxes and too much regulation have put a burden on businesses that have driven them to either initially open or eventually relocate across one of our borders. More

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OP-ED / LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Classifications threaten independent contracting

Guest Column:
Ray Mathieu
Posted 6/10/13

It’s no secret that Rhode Island’s economy has been struggling for years and that much of our woes are self-inflicted: High taxes and too much regulation have put a burden on businesses that have driven them to either initially open or eventually relocate across one of our borders.

I applaud the recent efforts by policymakers and thought leaders to identify specific ways to make Rhode Island competitive again. But just as we are aware of policies that are harmful to our business climate in Rhode Island, we need to be aware of – and push back on – federal policies that will hurt small employers here.

In Rhode Island we have nearly 24,000 small businesses, so protecting those businesses and the jobs they create must continue to be a high priority.

In recent years, the federal government has started to focus on the role of the independent contractor in the workplace and is undertaking a reclassification initiative. Whether we know it or not, most of us do business with someone who is classified as an independent contractor on a regular basis.

Hair stylists, truck drivers, real estate agents, writers and cab drivers are frequently independent contractors, meaning they work for themselves, pay for their own benefits and set their own hours. More than 7.4 percent of the U.S. workforce is comprised of independent contractors and many of them are parents, caregivers and semi-retired Americans who need a flexible schedule that they can control.

At a recent TechStars Summit, I learned about a study by Intuit that revealed more Americans want to work for themselves and that as much as 40 percent of the U.S. workforce could be independent contractors by 2020. This is especially true in the high-tech and IT fields and being able to work as an independent contractor is critical for those working in startups and for students looking for their first jobs.

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