Riccelli secures unanimous support for revamped employee classification bill

OLYMPIA – Working with stakeholders on all sides of the issue, Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, secured agreement on a worker classification bill that keeps it moving forward in the House but changes it to a work group that will examine the issue outside of the legislative session. With a striking amendment from the Chair of the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee, House Bill 1515 passed unanimously out of the committee yesterday ahead of this week’s cutoff for policy bills. The measure makes no changes to existing law.

“What I heard loud and clear was that the bill in the form introduced was unworkable. The tremendous public engagement made it clear further investigation and participatory dialogue are necessary,” Riccelli said. “I’m glad we’re able to move forward with a bill that makes this investigation and dialogue possible.”

The bill as advanced calls for an Employee Classification Work Group that would pull together legislators and stakeholders to examine questions over worker classification that have arisen in recent years. The goal will be to examine independent contractor definitions.

“I truly believe we have areas where the law is not clear around independent contractors and there are entities that are potentially misclassifying workers. This creates an un-level playing field for businesses playing by the rules and treats some workers unfairly,” Riccelli said.

The work group would include one legislator from each chambers’ caucuses, as well as stakeholders from the Washington State Labor Council, the Association of Washington Business, and state agencies like Labor & Industries, the Employment Security Department, and the Department of Revenue.

“We are pleased that lawmakers listened to the small-business owners who spoke up to protect their livelihoods,” said Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business. “We look forward to working with the task force to find a solution that addresses the needs of the evolving workforce while also preserving the ability for entrepreneurs to choose to work for themselves.”

“HB 1515’s approach to fixing this problem has attracted a lot of constructive feedback that should be addressed. We are excited to be included in a discussion about how best to protect employees from misclassification, while ensuring that true independent contractors are able to continue to do business on their own terms,” said Joe Kendo, Government Affairs Director for the Washington State Labor Council.

Riccelli received an enormous amount of feedback on the original bill from hair stylists and salon owners concerned it would negatively impact their businesses. Their input was critical to the revamping of the bill.

“It’s been an amazing experience being a part of the legislative process this year,” said Megz White, owner of Beauty By Megz Hair Salon in Spokane Valley. “Thousands of small business owners expressed concerns with regards to HB 1515, and as a result a work task force has been formed. We look forward to working with Rep. Riccelli in our continuing efforts and dialogue that will protect small businesses and misclassified employees alike.”

A report by the work group would be due in November of 2019, with specific points of reflection requested. An option to extend work into 2020 is also possible, if a majority of voting members of work group agree.

The revamped bill can be viewed here.