Guest Columnist Randi Thompson: Protecting the right to be self employed

Across Nevada, thousands of independent contractors are working hard to provide for their families and contribute to our local economy. They are hair stylists, computer techs, software engineers, package deliverers, taxi cab driver, even emergency room physicians. Whatever they do, they are making a living as best they can in a tough economy.

Often they choose to be an "independent contractor" so they can retain more flexibility and control over their time. But now there are legislative and legal proceedings being considered in Nevada that threaten their businesses and lifestyles. In a time of tenuous economic recovery, we should be encouraging people to take this work option if it is right for them - not dictate against it.

Independent contractors are virtually everywhere. There are more than 10 million of them across the United States - more than 7 percent of the total workforce. They are essential to our economy, accounting for $473 billion in personal income, or one in every $10 earned. More and more women are finding the independent contractor model one that works for them and their families. In 2005, female independent contractors comprised 35.3 percent of all independent contractors in the United States.

Just as importantly, many of them are expanding their independent contractor status into small businesses that create jobs for others. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, small companies - many of them arising out of independent contracting beginnings - create three out of every four new jobs. They are the key to job growth and economic recovery.

Yet despite their crucial role in our economy, some in our legislature want to make it difficult for independent contractors to grow and prosper. There are five bills in the legislature right now, each one threatening to take away the independent contractor status that so many hard-working Nevadans cherish. There's no question that companies and independent contractors should obey all laws and pay taxes as required. But broad-scale attempts to reclassify independent contractors and turn them into rank-and-file company employees is harmful to those who play by the rules, and it can stifle their innovation.

Independent contractors have chosen a path that allows them to do what they want - and do it in a way that makes sense for them and their families. If you ask them, independent contractors will likely tell you their work flexibility and life balance is something they highly value. They like the flexibility and autonomy that comes with independent contracting. And they enjoy something about their work not everyone has: bosses they really like - themselves.

Our legislature risks driving out innovation, job creation, work-life flexibility and entrepreneurship at a time of 15 percent unemployment! Legislators should not impose rules that limit a company's ability to use independent contractors. It makes no sense to add another layer of bureaucracy to regulate job classifications if the result makes life more difficult for businesses and independent contractors to thrive.

Our entrepreneurial freedom makes our economy the envy of the world. The hard-working people of Nevada should be free to pursue the way they want to work and how they want to work,

• By Randi Thompson is the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.


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