What is an independent contractor?

The State Industrial Commission is attempting to answer that question and will hold public hearing on the issue Jan. 5-6 at 9 a.m. in Room 336 of the Heber M. Wells Office Building, 160 E. Third South.Commissioner John Florez said the public's comments will be considered as the commission either formulates some regulations on independent contractors or asks the Legislature to resolve the matter.

Commission Chairman Stephen M. Hadley said the independent contractor issue involves the right of workers to be protected vs. the rights of employers to conduct their business without undue interference.

He said the controversy over who should pay for workmen's compensation and other benefits is heightened by economic pressure. "On one hand, employers are trying to reduce costs while on the other hand individuals seek economic protection against work injuries and loss of unemployment benefits," he said.

Commissioners want to determine if federal and state statutes, rules or regulations are duplicative and burdensome and whether inconsistent application of current state guidelines can be avoided.

Hadley said the commission is especially interested in individuals or organizations who want to testify on how the current definitions of independent contractor are affecting them. Anyone wanting to testify should notify the commission by Jan. 2.

One of the purposes of the hearings is to educate the public that one who has independent contractor status actually has an employee-employer relationship for purposes of worker's compensation and unemployment taxes.

Hadley said another objective of the hearings is to address factors that create lawsuits. "Cases involving the independent contractor issue last considerably longer than cases involving other issues and the commission believes an educated public and redefining the guidelines will reduce lawsuits," he said.

Some of the issues scheduled for discussion during the hearings are:

- How do the Worker's Compensation Law and the Employment Security Act differ on their treatment of independent contractors and should the differences be continued?

- Who should be included in the definition of independent contractor?

- If the definition of independent contractor as it is used in the Employment Security Act of Worker's Compensation Act is changed, who will be affected and to what extent?

- Would changes in the definition of independent contractor significantly reduce employer payroll tax costs? If so, are there potential increases in related costs?

- How would any recommended changes affect social and economic factors?