Virginia bill would hurt independent workers, subject homeowners to massive fines

Virginia bill would hurt independent workers, subject homeowners to massive fines

Senate Bill 1310 would expose middle-class families to fines of more than $130,000 when they need to hire help around the house, and make it harder to earn a living in home services.

“The legal obligation falls on you” just for hiring someone to help around your house.

That’s the clear message from supporters of Senate Bill 1310.

Under the guise of domestic worker protection, SB 1310 is trying to take away opportunity from independent workers who provide services to homeowners. It places many of the same burdens on these homeowners that are required of employers. But unlike employers, most homeowners do not have corporations or systems set up to navigate the labyrinth of requirements SB 1310 will impose on them.

According to the bill, if a homeowner has someone come to regularly mow their lawn or clean their house every few weeks, they may need a human resource professional, accountant or even an attorney.

They will need people to help set up tax compliance, put up health and safety posters, and potentially even contract with a payroll company to ensure they are in full compliance with Virginia’s payroll laws.

The bill opens up homeowners to substantial liability and the potential for lawsuits. Homeowners would be liable for lawsuits regarding discrimination and could be liable for large fines for violating even non-serious health and safety laws.

A citation for a non-serious violation of “any safety or health provision … or any standard, rule or regulation” could cost the homeowner more than $13,000. Repeated violations could cost the homeowner more than $130,000.

Further, homes will no longer be private. If the homeowner hires a domestic worker, inspectors from the Safety and Health Codes Board are entitled to “enter without delay and at reasonable times any …  place where an individual is engaged to perform domestic service.”

Homeowners would also need to post health and safety notices in their homes as well as notice of any violations – meaning a poster like this could be mounted next to family photos, for example.

Worse, these burdens could lead homeowners to stop using independent workers around their house altogether for fear of violating the law. Domestic workers could then either loose work or freedom and flexibility by being forced to work for a separate company.

One article advocating for the bill shows the exact intent and the end result of the legislation:

“If you’ve ever hired a nanny, caregiver, house cleaner or anyone to help keep your household running, then you are an employer. The reality is that most workers should not technically be considered contractors if they are in long-term, individual relationships with the people who work in their homes. If workers aren’t being paid by a third-party company, the legal obligation falls on you — the person whose home it is.”

The mention of the third-party company is almost an afterthought, but that is exactly what the outcome of the legislation will be. Homeowners will see the burdens and liability put on them by SB 1310 and realize it is not worth it to go with a local, independent worker. To be safe and to avoid headaches they will simply go with a large company. The problem is that even if a homeowner pays that third party a little more, the business has overhead, administration and other expenses. Now the domestic worker that used to be independent and getting the full amount the homeowner would pay them is now an employee and could be paid less.

Today, landscapers, maids and other domestic workers are free to work through regular landscaping or cleaning companies, but they are also free to be independent and be their own boss

This bill with limit their options, making it harder for domestic entrepreneurs to work for themselves and sticking homeowners with a costly legal liability.

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