California AB-5 is a National Headache
While AB-5 is an unfamiliar term for many, this overreaching and cumbersome California legislation has created multiple headaches for freelancers and independent contractors nationwide.
Signed into law in September of 2019, Assembly Bill 5 purported to protect gig workers from employers. Namely, tight-fisted souls who classified them as independent contractors as a way of avoiding paying unemployment, health insurance, or other benefits.
I will admit the state legislature may have had good intentions. But that it had to pass AB-2257 recently to amend some of the original law’s cumbersome and ill-advised definitions show that it would have been better had they never passed it in the first place.
In brief, this episode has proved to be yet another example of government smashing away with a sledgehammer when a tap or two with a ball-peen hammer could have resolved the situation.
A Concern to All
One might think because many of us live outside of California, the law was of no concern. Not true. It applies not only to publishers who maintain a business presence in that state, but out-of-state publishers who use the services of freelancers living or working in California.
To avoid problems with AB-5, some out-of-state publishers stopped using some of my cohorts because they lived in California.
Fortunately, the law hasn’t caused me any problems yet, but who knows? At one time, my leading client was a ministry in California and I still write for a group based there. Several years ago I edited a book for an author in Los Angeles.
Prior to the amendments of AB-2257, one freelancer wrote that implementation of AB-5 had put many individuals who choose to be freelancers out of work—including her.
Last year when she was looking for part-time work to fill in during a slow season, she applied for content-writing gigs with a couple companies. Since she rated highly on their scale, they invited her to write as many articles as she wanted.
However, a month later she learned she would be limited to 30 articles annually because AB-5’s “wisdom” determined that anyone writing more than that should be classified as an employee.
This is absurd, especially in her case, since some of the articles she wrote were 400 words or less and could be completed in an afternoon.
Fortunately, someone came to their senses and AB-2257 repealed that provision.
However, I wonder how many companies in other states who wouldn’t hire this freelancer because of the now-revoked limit will get the memo that things have changed.
What this boils down to is an experienced, talented freelancer lost work that she will have to fight to regain because California “rescued” her.
It would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic—and serious.
‘Free’ in Freelancing
Although I spend most of my time working on book projects, at one time there were organizations for which I wrote for nearly every month.
I tackled these jobs gladly, without any illusion of receiving the benefits that accompany traditional employment.
But I also got to set my own hours and work at my own pace. As long as I met my deadlines, everyone was happy. It’s the “free” part of freelancing.
One reason I’m upset about the AB-5 fiasco is because of California’s ludicrous attempts to define relationships that are none of its business may be imitated by other states. A case of the Nanny State gone wild.
Let us hope enough freelancers scream, “Enough!” so we can get other lawmakers to slam on the brakes.