Feb 8, 2019      News      

My Ability as an Independent Contractor is at Risk. The Legislature Can Do Something About It

Being an active member of the workforce with a mental illness is an everyday challenge. For decades, popular culture has defined careers by pattern, consistency, hierarchy, and competition. But this lifestyle is not suitable for my disability, as I require self-supervision and control over my own schedule based on my condition at the time. This is why I work as an independent contractor. As a former television repair expert and current freelance writer, I have control of my schedule, my abilities, and my interactions with others. The modern economy has provided me more freedom and more autonomy than ever before.

But all of this is at risk because of a California Supreme Court decision dealing with independent contractors.

In my career, I have faced challenges because of my disability, but independent contracting gave me the autonomy to overcome this hardship. In 1986, I worked as an independent contractor for a television repair shop in the Bay Area. In doing so, I was not forced to share my disability with coworkers. My business with the repair shop allowed me to privately learn about the repair business – developing a technical skill and maintaining my privacy.  At the same time, I worked directly with customers via classified advertisements.

In comparison to working directly for customers, I was able to accomplish a greater amount of work with fewer personal struggles. Independent contracting allowed me to give back to my community, contribute to the workforce, and prevent additional challenges I may face.

In more recent years, I found a love for writing and have used freelancing to share my work and supplement my income. I, not the newspaper, decide how, when, and how much I produce. I’ve written for numerous publications. Many of the pieces are self-help articles for the mentally ill. I’m proud to be able to help other people challenged by similar disabilities. Selling pieces to newspapers helps me financially and boosts my sense of well-being.

Last April, the California Supreme Court ruled on the case of Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles. This ruling reversed decades of law regarding independent contractors to create a one size fits all approach to defining who is and who is not an independent contractor. As a person with a disability who has thrived in the modern economy, I support modernizing employment law, but this decision does the exact opposite.

Many industries utilize independent contractors: healthcare, education, beauty, construction, agriculture, transportation, and creative industries like writing, film, and entertainment. Independent contractors in one field have needs that differ from those in another. As a former television repair expert and current freelance writer, my concerns as an independent contractor differ from those of beauticians or healthcare professionals.

Now California lawmakers have an opportunity to protect my ability to continue to work as an independent contractor. For me, it allows me to earn some income without facing additional challenges. For many, it allows them to make extra income while caring for their children or going to school. I hope lawmakers listen to their constituents and oppose any one size fits all policy that doesn’t fit our modern, diverse workforce and will take away income for millions and their families.

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