Employee or Independent Contractor?

In California, it’s always winter but never Christmas for Santa Claus

Photo by Mike Arney on Unsplash

From USAToday, Kelsey Bolar discusses how California’s independent contractor law affects Stanta Clauses this year. Kelsey writes:

Effective Jan. 1, 2020, the state law forces employers to hire people like Santa Claus, a man who traditionally works as an independent contractor, as a formal employee with sick leave, health care, employment protections and more. While the measure intended to help Santa and other freelance workers secure new benefits, the law is having the opposite effect, leaving him — as well as thousands of other California independent contractors — out in the cold.

“It’s easier for people to be Santa Claus as an independent contractor because it is seasonal work,” explained Patrick Turnbull, a retired landscape contractor from Sunland, California, who’s worked as Santa Claus for the past 20 years. “If you were employed by somebody to be Santa Claus — well, in Southern California — there is no snow and there are no sleds in July, so what am I going to do in the meantime?”

“We’re not crying for benefits or claiming we’re being abused,” said Marguerite Kusuhara, a California-based entertainer who works as Mrs. Claus during the holiday season. “We’re very happy. The gig economy is very important. Trying to make it disappear doesn’t make any sense.”

Kusuhara depends on the income she makes performing as Mrs. Claus and other characters throughout the year. Because she is the primary caregiver for her husband who suffered a stroke last year, she can’t work a traditional full-time job. But under the guise of protecting workers rights, AB5 is taking that ability away.

Much of the effects of the new law are being masked by the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused Santas — often older men with jolly, round bellies — to decline gigs on top of those they’ve already lost.

“It’s as much COVID-19 as it is AB5,” Turnbull said. “2020 being what it is, we get two times the whammy.”

If the law doesn’t get repealed, Turnbull plans to establish his own business as a workaround. Doing this will relieve him from the burdens of AB5, but it will add another layer of taxes, accounting and legal hassle for someone who performs primarily for the joy he’s able to share.

Other holiday performers my organization, Independent Women’s Forum, spoke with face more dire situations as a result of lost income. One Mrs. Claus was in such bad shape, she’s considering leaving the state.

Read the full story at  In California, it’s always winter but never Christmas for Santa Claus

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