MS carriers exempt from state unemployment laws

June 5, 2012

By Sara DeForge Hough
Government Relations Manager | NNA
JACKSON, MS—Effective July 1, 2012, newspaper carriers in Mississippi will be expressly exempted from state unemployment laws thanks to a three-year legislative effort led by the Mississippi Press Association.
The bill was signed into law in April after passing through both Houses by wide margins and with only some minor opposition in the House. Originally, the bill was just an exemption for newspaper carriers. However, in committee the proposal was combined with another piece of legislation that also covered door-to-door salespeople.
Before, only carriers under the age of 18 were exempted. Mississippi workers compensation law already exempted carriers from benefits.
In preceding years, the legislation found wide support in both Houses, but failed on minor last minute technicalities.
The first legislative attempt in January 2010 failed because of a last minute hold by the Department of Justice with concerns that federal exemptions for tribal organizations and other demographic groups had to first be satisfied. The issues were resolved, but not in time to meet the deadlines of the legislative session.
In 2011, the proposal once again passed both Houses by large margins, but was ultimately killed by the calendar because one legislator who was irate about how the bill was handled in committee.
The issue came to the forefront in late 2009. About a dozen cases arose where carriers had either left their routes or had their contracts terminated and then subsequently filed for unemployment benefits. Before this, there was not a major problem with carriers being granted unemployment.
MPA met with representatives from the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, the state unemployment agency, to see if an administrative resolution could be reached on the basis that carriers are contract labor and had always been considered such. DES would not issue an administrative remedy, but rather encouraged MPA to seek a legislative fix.
DES officials stated they would not work against any sort of legislative proposals and, true to their word, stayed out of the process, offering neither assistance nor roadblocks. DES simply continues to review cases, finding against newspapers, and will continue to do so until the July 1 deadline.
The issue has come up in other states in the last few years including New York, Massachusetts, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
The full text of the bill—HB 451—is available at billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2012/pdf/HB/0400-0499/HB0451SG.pdf
sara@nna.org

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