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Georgia Passes Bipartisan Anti-Misclassification Bill Following Powerful Teamster Testimony

Sen. Mabra

Sen. Mabra

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A bill has passed through the Georgia House Labor and Industry subcommittee which aims to combat employee misclassification by strengthening two existing practices and writing them into law.  HB 500, introduced by State Rep. Ronnie Mabra, directs Georgia’s Department of Labor to create a website for workers to report instances of misclassification.  It also mandates that the department investigate credible allegations.  The second part of the bill, SR 11, refines the language of what constitutes a contractor and an employee using language from the Georgia Supreme Court.

As in all states, misclassification is found across an array of industries in Georgia.  Speaking to legislators, Ted Terry, state campaign director for the Georgia AFL-CIO, called misclassification “widespread.”  Terry noted cases of misclassification among cable installers, construction workers, stagehands and even security guards at strip clubs:

“If you’re an employee, you have certain rights and privileges that are assigned to you versus an independent contractor,” such as workers’ compensation insurance, guaranteed overtime pay and sometimes health insurance and a retirement plan.

Georgia’s Port of Savannah is a hotbed of misclassification and the unscrupulous practice has an iron grip on the port trucking industry in general.  Many drivers testified in late February about their job conditions and the responsibilities their employers shed by classifying them as independent contractors.  Eric Robertson, political director of Teamsters Local 728 in Atlanta, explains that the cost of equipment and other trucking expenses means some drivers are not even earning minimum wages or being paid for overtime. “It creates unsafe situations where they’re forced to transport with faulty equipment,” Robertson said. “They’re forced to maintain their own equipment even though the employer is … dictating every part of their working day.”

Robertson further explained the negative effect that misclassification has on law-abiding companies: “Employee misclassification has a hugely detrimental effect on the employers that we are in dealings with, such as UPS and the other larger freight companies.”

After hearing testimony from Savannah port truckers, Senate President Pro Tempore David Shafer, a pro-business conservative, said he “was troubled by what he had heard.”

“I’m persuaded this failure to enforce existing laws is unfair. It’s unfair to workers who are working very hard to support themselves and their families, and it’s unfair to businesses who obey the law and are then put at a disadvantage,” said Shafer, R-Duluth. “I’d like to see this addressed in a thoughtful, deliberative and forceful manner.”

HB 500 was passed with bipartisan support following a House Committee vote.  The bill will now move to the full Insurance and Labor Committee.


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