Minnesota independent contractors under attack

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/28/2014

An effort at the Minnesota statehouse is described as a potential big blow to independent contractors, including owner-operators. Kentucky lawmakers are also taking a look at the issue.

A Minnesota House bill would not forbid use of independent contractors in the state, but it would add barriers making it difficult to do business in the state. HF2742 would implement 12 conditions for truckers to meet in order to maintain their independent status.

Supporters say the change is needed to address loopholes and ongoing misclassification under the state’s definition of independent contractors.

The Minnesota Trucking Association and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association oppose the bill.

Officials at the MTA say the state’s existing rules do not need an overhaul. Their website includes a statement that “Minnesota has a sensible law that protects the rights of owner-operators while preventing egregious misclassifications by carriers seeking to avoid paying worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance.”

OOIDA Member Joyce Brenny, owner of Brenny Specialized Transportation in St. Joseph, Minn., said the changes sought in the bill would make it nearly impossible to be an independent contractor in the state.

“Being able to meet all 12 stipulations would be a challenge,” Brenny, who also serves on the board for the Minnesota Trucking Association, told Land Line. “It would make the owner-operator possibility for companies more stringent and harder to achieve. It’s scary.”

Brenny’s company uses 15 owner-operators. She described the proposed rule change as an “anti-business jab.”

“This is a business model that has worked forever. It is something we need – the trucking industry as a whole, interstate commerce as a whole. These guys are their own small business. What right does the government have to say you can’t run a small business?

Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive vice president, shared similar sentiment. He said the bill is misguided and could result in a lot of businesses packing up and leaving the state. Instead, he urged lawmakers to look at federal rules to address any problem with misclassification in the state.

HF2742 is awaiting consideration in the House Labor, Workplace and Regulated Industries Committee. No hearing date has been set.

OOIDA encourages Minnesota truck drivers to contact their state House lawmakers and share their story with them.

In Kentucky, a bill nearing passage would keep truckers clear of any dispute over classification of independent contractors.

House lawmakers voted 74-22 to advance a bill that is focused on the construction industry.

Jamie Fiepke with the Kentucky Motor Transport Association said that truckers would be exempt from any rule changes.

“We’ve exempted ourselves from the bill,” Fiepke said. “An owner-operator can continue to operate in Kentucky.”

SB81 now heads back to the Senate for approval of changes. The chamber previously approved the bill on a 24-14 vote.

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