NJCJI has been leading an effort to defend the freedom of entrepreneurs, and through that process, we have had our disagreements with the New Jersey Department of Labor on the interpretation and application of the relevant standards for worker classification.  But credit where it is due – we want to commend Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo on his leadership in developing a fair and efficient process for freelance workers and other independent contractors seeking income replacement.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked unprecedented wave of filings by employees for unemployment assistance, which would be a difficult burden for NJDOL on its own.  But states have also been charged with administering federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) funding for workers not currently eligible for conventional unemployment insurance – and with creating a mechanism for establishing who is eligible for which category of funding.

Because the PUA is intended for individuals not eligible for UI – a category that includes a significant number of independent contractors – it had the potential to raise worker classification questions in the administration of the fund.  And indeed, we have heard reports of states choosing to scrutinize the merits of applicants’ classification prior to processing the benefits.

So we are very happy to see the NJDOL establish a streamlined approach to processing that turns, instead, on the applicant’s history of 1099 compensation, consistent with their identification as freelance workers.  The updated site provides new guidance for independent contractors to follow as they file their applications to help them accurately identify the applicable fund, with a helpful introductory question: “Are you a PUA-eligible claimant who got an email to start certifying for benefits?”

And most importantly, it does not require a mini audit of their employment classification. 

These are difficult times for many in our state.  NJDOL is on the frontlines – helping an unprecedented number of New Jersey residents obtain the income replacement assistance they need, working remotely on antiquated technology, but they are getting it done.  We appreciate their fine work and look forward to continued collaboration.  Please email Alida if you would like to discuss this further.