Independent contractors in Wisconsin UI proceedings

Here is a brief I will be using for training purposes for the unemployment clinic here in Madison. It runs through the basic issues relating to deciding whether a claimant is an employee or an independent contractor. The test is still extremely difficult to meet.

Moreover, the case registers basic procedural and substantive problems with how independent contractor cases are currently handled in Wisconsin. Simply put, Wisconsin unemployment law leads to duplicate and unnecessary proceedings in regards to independent contractor determinations for both employees and employers in ways that are frustrating for both. While much is at present being changed in unemployment law in Wisconsin, real problems that the businesses and residents of Wisconsin have in regards to independent contractor issues and the ensuing long, complicated, and often unnecessary hearings over these issues are not even being mentioned.

In the case at issue in the brief, there was little at stake for either party, but four hours of hearings and now a LIRC appeal has taken place.

In this situation, both the claimant and the employer are probably justified in disputing how independent contractor law in unemployment cases are handled. The claimant in this matter has had to deal with DWD investigations not only for the $500 at issue in this case but $200 earned from serving in a chorus in a show. The employer is stuck with any of its freelancers being subject to UI taxes and an intrusive DWD examining all of its employees.

Until this portion of UI law changes once again, there are ways for making these kinds of cases a little less problematic and burdensome for all involved. What the attached brief does in part is demonstrate the circumstances and issues that employers and employees need to be aware of before simply fighting each other.

UPDATE available.

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Short descriptions of the new UI changes in Wisconsin

Here is a table listing all of the UI changes at issue by bill and the effective date of the proposed change. In addition, here is a two-page description of the relevant changes in unemployment law.

Because the quit exceptions will matter for all determinations after January 5, 2014, and because many of those quit exceptions cover quits with secondary employers, I believe claimants should now presume these changes have already taken effect before quitting a job in the next few months.

For example, suppose a claimant quits a part-time job right now, loses his or her full-time job in February 2014, and subsequently files a claim for unemployment benefits. Because exception (7)(k), quit a part-time job, will no longer exist in February 2014, he or she will be disqualified from benefits unless he or she can show that the quit from the part-time job was for a good cause.

In other words, people who think that current law still applies are wrong. Instead, they need to act right now as if the proposed law is in effect. Only if they know they will not file an unemployment claim in
the next year and a quarter can they safely quit a second job today and not worry about the impact of that quit on unemployment benefits from their primary job.