Senate Considers Portable Benefits Regime for Independent Contractors - Articles

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27Jun

Senate Considers Portable Benefits Regime for Independent Contractors

In response to a request for information from a Senate committee leader, the Insights Association, the leading nonprofit association for the insights industry, urged that any potential regime of portable benefits for independent contractors should not apply to research subjects.

According to Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), independent contractors "are poorly served by nearly century-old labor and employment laws that inadvertently prevent them from receiving common workplace benefits. Policymakers have a responsibility to evaluate the laws governing the workplace and identify where changes might improve workers’ ability to pursue careers of their choice while allowing access to historically employment-based benefits like health care and retirement benefits. As Ranking Member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, examining whether labor and employment laws fit the modern economy is a key priority."

In his recent request for information (RFI), Sen. Cassidy asked various questions about how to approach providing portable benefits to independent contractors without jeopardizing that legal status:

  • The independent contractor debate has largely focused on the question of who is an employee versus who is an independent contractor. Yet workers have shown preferences for work models outside of traditional employment, opting for flexibility in exchange for the benefits associated with the employee-employer relationship. … How should the line between employee and independent contractor be drawn to best serve workers’ interests, as they understand them?
  • Downstream of the question of who is an independent contractor is uncertainty about whether companies may contribute to benefits for independent contractors. … What are the chief federal legal and regulatory obstacles preventing the provision of benefits to independent contractors? … Are there other obstacles to consider that, assuming legal and regulatory obstacles are removed, would prevent firms from providing benefits to independent contractors? If so, what are they?

The Insights Association responded that, “Not all independent contractors should be considered as “workers” and thus subject to any potential portable benefits arrangement. U.S. labor law is predicated on a binary option if someone is receiving remuneration: they are either an independent contractor or an employee. Many people who participate in market research studies as research subjects receive remuneration (which our industry refers to as “incentives”) and are thus independent contractors. However, serving as a research subject is not “work” in any traditional sense, and being a research subject, even with any kind of frequency, does not make someone a “worker” nor part of a “profession” or “workforce.””

As IA explained, “That is why a benefits scheme, portable or otherwise, makes no sense in the context of a research subject.”

Read IA’s full response to the Senate HELP Committee’s RFI.

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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