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6 ideas for curbing worker misclassification

Posted Thursday, Sep. 04, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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There’s no single magic bullet that can eliminate misclassification of workers. But according to experts who spoke with McClatchy, much could be done to curtail it.

Here are six potential fixes:

1. THE FIX: Prohibit state and federal agencies from accepting certified payroll records from contractors who list workers on their payroll reports but fail to withhold taxes. If a worker is truly a self-employed independent contractor, he must file his own form.

WHO COULD ACT: U.S. Department of Labor, U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development.

CONTACT: Wage and Hour Administrator David Weil, 866-487-9243; http://1.usa.gov/UXB3Xq. HUD Secretary Julian Castro, 202-708-0417; http://1.usa.gov/1p1Z1YK

2. THE FIX: Make the issue of misclassification everyone’s problem. Educate regulators on the rules governing employment and require them to watch out for the practice in trades. Require contractors to attend Department of Labor training in which they’re told about their legal responsibility to ensure subcontractors are properly classifying workers.

WHO COULD ACT: U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

CONTACT: Wage and Hour Administrator David Weil, 866-487-9243; http://1.usa.gov/UXB3Xq. HUD Secretary Julian Castro, 202-708-0417; http://1.usa.gov/1p1Z1YK

3. THE FIX: Create coalitions of contractors, such as a group did in Texas, to band together employers who refuse to misclassify and to do business with those who do.

WHO COULD ACT: Workers Defense Project.

CONTACT: 512-391-2305.

4. THE FIX: Prevent tax cheaters from doing business with governments. Establish guidelines that require local, state and federal agencies to check for tax liens and certificates to operate when reviewing bid applications. Require the general contractor to certify the company has performed similar checks on each subcontractor. Routinely check liens against subcontractors through the life of a project.

WHO COULD ACT: White House, Congress.

CONTACT: White House, http://1.usa.gov/1b63vOg; Senate, http://1.usa.gov/KxiTHC; House of Representatives, http://1.usa.gov/1e8pAws

5. THE FIX: Adopt policies used in states that have combated misclassification. In New York, workers in certain fields, such as transportation and construction, are presumed to be employees under the law. The burden is on the business owner to prove the worker is an independent contractor.

WHO COULD ACT: Congress.

CONTACT: Senate, http://1.usa.gov/KxiTHC; House, http://1.usa.gov/1e8pAws

6. THE FIX: Increase use of data analytics systems that can spot irregularities and uncover fraud. States such as Washington and Louisiana have turned to private software companies to help them find unpaid taxes from companies engaged in tax schemes, including misclassification.

WHO COULD ACT: U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

CONTACT: Wage and Hour Administrator David Weil, 866-487-9243; email: http://1.usa.gov/UXB3Xq. HUD Secretary Julian Castro, 202-708-0417; http://1.usa.gov/1p1Z1YK

Locke reports for The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. We want to know your thoughts and experiences with misclassification. Share your feedback directly with the reporters: mlocke@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8927; or fordonez@mcclatchydc.com or 202-383-0010; or on Twitter @mandylockenews or @francoordonez.

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