Thanks to help from researcher Vera Cooley, the Washington State House Committee on Finance amended legislation before passage on February 28, preventing a detrimental impact on the survey, opinion and marketing research profession.

The "Employee Fair Classification Act" (H.B. 1440) would have created the presumption that anyone receiving remuneration for services is an employee. The burden to refute that presumption would have rested with the “employer.”

H.B. 1440 passed the Labor & Workforce Development Committee on February 7. During a February 18 hearing in the House Finance Committee, researcher and Marketing Research Association (MRA) member Vera Cooley testified, on behalf of the MRA, to the negative impact threatened by H.B. 1440 to any research company offering incentives to respondents in Washington State, who without the amendment would have had to treat such respondents as employees.

 “The overhead that would be required ... would mean that we couldn't have focus groups in this state,” said Cooley in testimony to the Finance Committee.

However, before passing the bill on February 28, the Finance Committee amended it to remove references to “remuneration,” and to exempt from the definition of an “employee” any “individual employed on a casual and sporadic basis.” This now means that even if a research respondent’s relationship with a research company would have difficulty passing the test to be considered an “independent contractor” – an increasingly common problem – H.B. 1440 would protect research companies from having to treat respondents as employees because even active and relatively frequent panelists would still likely be considered to be “employed on a casual and sporadic basis.”

"This clarification from the Washington State legislature will save the research profession and the state government time and money," commented MRA’s Director of Government Affairs Howard Fienberg.

"We are grateful to have dedicated members like Vera Cooley. Without such grassroots support, legislative victories for the research profession would be fewer and farther between,” Fienberg added.

H.B. 1440 now awaits House floor consideration.