Rhode Island Passes Insane Law Punishing Freelancers and Contractors

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Well, here’s another crappy law designed to punish people for not working “traditional” jobs. Rhode Island recently passed legislation that could result in horrific consequences for freelancers and independent contractors.

The law imposes registration fees and privacy concerns on independent contractors and freelancers, which experts believe could serve as a model for other states. The legislation requires independent contractors to file a designation form annually and pay a $50 fee, with failure to comply resulting in a felony charge.

Critics argue that the law unfairly targets independent contractors and could violate privacy rights, while potentially promoting client poaching and intimidation through a public, searchable database of contractor-business relationships:

Rhode Island’s more than 85,000 self-employed gig workers make up 27% of the state’s small business demographic, according to 2022 data from Neilsberg.

“I actually don’t think this was on the governor’s personal wishlist or on the legislatures. I believe this bill was written somewhere else,” [New Jobs America President Mike] Hruby argued. “It was done very carefully. It meets all but one of the drafting standards that unions normally apply, which is sort of vague, very harsh and completely contrary to the benefit of anyone who wants to be a self-employed independent contractor.”

Along with the designation form comes a public, searchable database which the state’s website claims will list “the relationship between a contractor and the business hiring the contractor.”

According to both Hruby and Hoffman, this provision could violate a number of individual privacy rights.

“They say the form is going to be reported,” Hruby explained. “So everything on that form… This country does not want date of birth as a public piece of information. You don’t want your address. This is just rife.”

Rhode Island boasts a significant number of self-employed gig workers, with over 85,000 independent contractors comprising 27% of the state’s small business demographic. The new law’s registration fees and potential legal repercussions may deter individuals from maintaining their independent contractor status, leading to a decline in the state’s self-employed workforce. The imposition of additional barriers to entry for independent contractors threatens the economic contributions of these workers, who annually inject millions, if not billions, of dollars into the state’s economy.

The fees and privacy concerns are certainly troubling. But looking at the law itself and drawing it out to its logical conclusion paints an even more sinister picture. If you’re a contractor or freelancer in Rhode Island and you fail to pay a $50 fee and fill out a form for each client, you will be charged with a felony. This means the government can send men with guns and badges to your home and use the threat of physical violence to remove you and throw you in a cage.

That is precisely what we are talking about here.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, there is also the concern that this law will serve as a test run for other states looking to implement similar regulations on independent contractors. The precedent set by Rhode Island raises concerns that other Democrat-led states, such as New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, California, Minnesota, and Colorado, may follow suit. The potential replication of this legislation across the nation could have far-reaching consequences, stifling entrepreneurship and limiting the flexibility and autonomy associated with independent contractor arrangements.

This law essentially punishes people for working outside of the traditional corporate American system. It harms those who decide to start their own businesses. There is no valid reason for the state to be collecting lists of freelancers and contractors and their clients – especially under the threat of imprisonment. But, just like California’s AB5 law, this is not meant for any positive purpose. Instead, it is another way the government seeks to control how Americans decide to work. Hopefully, there will be some legal challenges in the works that could result in the death of this atrocious legislation.


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