A Senate bill that would clarify the relationship between businesses and independent contractors during a state of emergency cleared its final committee stop Thursday.
The Senate Rules Committee OK’d the measure (SB 542) unanimously and without debate. Republican Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez is the bill sponsor.
Under the proposal, businesses can support independent contractors during a state of emergency — such as a pandemic or a hurricane — without fear of litigation that alleges an improper employee-employer relationship.
“You are unable to give them anything because of the way that the employment structure is set up,” Rodriguez told the committee.
In the event of a lawsuit, the bill would prohibit several transactions from being used as evidence in court.
The prohibited evidence includes a business providing financial assistance to a sick or fearful contractor, the assignment of protective equipment to an employee and the sharing of safety training programs.
According to the IRS, an independent contractor is a self-employed person contracted to perform work as a non-employee. The United States is home to more than 10 million independent contractors, CNBC reports.
The bill is one of many motivated by lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. In some instances, businesses wished to provide masks, hand sanitizer and other supplies to contractors but feared the offering could pose legal problems.
“If it passes … companies would be able to provide these types of items to their independent contractors without creating a situation where they would be violating any laws,” Rodriguez added.
Rodriguez’s proposal now awaits the full Senate’s consideration.
The companion bill (HB 411), meanwhile, is slated to appear before two more committees — the House Judiciary Committee and the Civil Justice and Property Rights Subcommittee. Republican Rep. Lauren Melo of Naples is the companion bill sponsor.
If signed into law, the measure would take effect July 1.