Connecticut bill covers ABCs of independent contractor status

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/17/2013

Connecticut lawmakers could soon change a rule that covers the employment status of independent contractors, including owner-operators.

State law now regards truck drivers who work for one motor carrier to be employees. The state’s “ABC test” presumes that workers are employees unless they meet three requirements. The test for independent contractors states that workers “must be free from the employer’s control and direction; perform a service outside the employer’s usual course of business or outside of all the employer’s places of businesses; and be customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business or the same nature as the service being performed for the employer.”

Currently, a worker can fail part C of the test if he or she provides services for only one employer.

The Connecticut House voted unanimously on Thursday, May 16, to advance a bill that would exempt independent contractors from the one motor carrier requirement. HB6151 now awaits a Senate floor vote before it can move to the governor’s desk.

Truckers welcome the legislative action. Michael Riley of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut said the legislative push is his highest priority bill of the year.

“It lays out the circumstances that an owner-operator could be an independent contractor in Connecticut when working for only one motor carrier,” Riley told Land Line.

Owner-operator and OOIDA Senior Member Charlie Marshall of Torrington, CT, spoke at a recent hearing on the bill. He addressed a point made by bill supporters that truck drivers want to be employees.

“I’ve been driving as an owner-operator for 27 years. ... I’ve supported my family and I like what I’m doing and I want to continue what I’m doing,” Marshall testified.

OOIDA is encouraging Connecticut truckers to communicate with their state senators in support of the legislation.

“Not only will the legislation directly benefit owner-operators leased to carriers, but it will help the state be more attractive for creating new trucking business,” said Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

Officials in New York and New Jersey are also discussing legislation that would deem many owner-operators to be employees.

Citing concerns that drayage and parcel truckers in the state are being misclassified, New Jersey state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, is pushing a bill to include stiff penalties for employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors.

In New York, a bill would reclassify truck operators and parcel drivers as company drivers.

Opponents, including OOIDA, say that the changes sought in New York and New Jersey modify the employment status of independent contractors and meddle with interstate commerce, which is a violation of federal pre-emption.

The American Trucking Associations sued the city of Los Angeles in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit several years ago over portions of its clean truck program, including an expensive concession requirement that all trucks entering the port would have to comply with.

The subsequent ruling confirmed that states cannot regulate the routes, rates or services of trucks engaged in interstate commerce.

The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing the case.

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