Articles

14Feb

Respondent Incentives Would Be Extremely Difficult to Offer in Washington State Under H.B. 1440

Legislation in the Washington State House could cripple survey, opinion and marketing research involving respondent incentives by creating the presumption that anyone receiving remuneration for services is an employee.

The "Employee Fair Classification Act" (H.B. 1440), sponsored by Rep. John McCoy (D-38), will be considered by the House Committee on Finance at 1:30pm on February 18. It already passed the House Committee on Labor & Workforce Development on February 7.

H.B. 1440 would create a presumption in law that an employer-employee relationship exists whenever a person gets paid to perform services. The burden to refute that presumption that everyone is an employee would lie with the employer.

This bill would have a detrimental impact on any research company or organization using incentives for respondents. Rather than the current practice in Washington and other states, the "employer" would have to rebut the presumption that every person receiving payment for services is an employee. This would impose massive administrative overhead, as well as costly payments into workers compensation and unemployment compensation funds on behalf of every respondent receiving an incentive for participating in a research study. Research companies in Washington would have to do all that until they are able to provide sufficient evidence to the Department of Labor and Industries that the respondents are independent contractors and not employees. Upon receiving such evidence, the State would then have to refund the money that was erroneously collected from the company or organization.

This is not only ridiculous, it is a waste of resources for both the State and the companies and organizations involved. It would make much more sense for the State to examine individual claims of misclassification rather than assuming en banc that every independent contractor has been misclassified.

Legislation and regulatory activity like WA H.B. 1440 are the reason MRA sought the introduction last year of the Research Fairness Act (H.R. 5915 in the last Congress), to clarify the treatment under federal labor law of respondents receiving incentives as independent contractors, not employees.

MRA will be contacting the members of the House Committee on Finance in advance of their February 18 meeting to request that they either amend H.B. 1440 to exclude respondent incentives, or bottle up this legislation in their committee and not allow it to advance. Any MRA members in Washington willing to contact their state Representatives about H.B. 1440 should contact MRA Director of Government Affairs, Howard Fienberg, as soon as possible.

About the Author

Howard Fienberg

Howard Fienberg

Based in Washington, DC, Howard is the Insights Association's lobbyist for the marketing research and data analytics industry, focusing primarily on consumer privacy and data security, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), tort reform, and the funding and integrity of the decennial Census and the American Community Survey (ACS). Howard has more than two decades of public policy experience. Before the Insights Association, he worked in Congress as senior legislative staffer for then-Representatives Christopher Cox (CA-48) and Cliff Stearns (FL-06). He also served more than four years with a science policy think tank, working to improve the understanding of scientific and social research and methodology among journalists and policymakers. Howard is also co-director of The Census Project, a 900+ member coalition in support of a fair and accurate Census and ACS. He has also served previously on the Board of Directors for the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics and and the Association of Government Relations Professionals. Howard has an MA International Relations from the University of Essex in England and a BA Honors Political Studies from Trent University in Canada, and has obtained the Certified Association Executive (CAE), Professional Lobbying Certificate (PLC) and the Public Policy Certificate (PPC). When not running advocacy for the Insights Association, Howard enjoys hockey, NFL football, sci-fi and horror movies, playing with his dog, and spending time with family and friends.

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