Seyfarth Shaw Partner Camille Olson Testifies Before Senate HELP Subcommittee on Behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

 
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A Senate HELP Subcommittee held a hearing to explore issues related to challenges for Gig Economy workers in saving for retirement, and how legislation could help remove barriers for these workers and the companies with which they partner. Camille Olson offered the perspective of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s member companies, providing the Committee with ways to create a path for companies to help its non-employee workers contribute to retirement savings plans.

On February 6, 2018, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security held a hearing entitled Exploring the ‘Gig Economy’ and the Future of Retirement Savings. Working together with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Employee Benefits Committee and its Technology Engagement Center (C_TEC), Seyfarth partner Camille Olson prepared suggestions for the Subcommittee on how to solve the issues facing gig economy workers, and presented these solutions to the Subcommittee on the Chamber’s behalf.

Olson testified that “Chamber members support the entrepreneurial spirit of the gig economy and the creation of opportunities to encourage all workers to save for retirement,” noting that Congress can help by “enhanc[ing] the flexibility, portability, and certainty of the retirement system to allow independents to obtain retirement security.” She described how the current framework – under which provision of benefits or assistance in obtaining benefits to independent contractors can be viewed as an indicia of employment – functions as a disincentive for companies who may otherwise be able to assist these workers in saving for retirement. Any such assistance cannot be undertaken without “jeopardizing the legal status of their operational models.”

The solutions offered by Olson and the Chamber are aimed at making the system more flexible and include:

(1) increasing the availability and access to retirement and financial education and information regarding existing retirement vehicles (including Keoghs and IRAs) available to independents; (2) allowing gig economy companies to provide benefit information to independents; (3) allowing gig economy companies to assist with the administration and facilitation of direct deposit of funds into retirement vehicles; (4) allowing gig economy companies to contribute to portable retiree benefits for the benefit of independents; (5) promoting the development of flexible, portable retirement products and services with open platforms that allow for contributions from multiple organizations and participants; (6) providing independents monetary incentives to save for retirement; and (7) ensuring that gig economy companies’ facilitation of retiree benefits education, administration and funding for independents does not negatively impact the independents’ legal relationships with the gig companies.

Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-WY) and Senator Todd Young (R-IN) questioned Olson during the hearing, with Senator Young mentioning that he appreciated the concrete ideas offered by the witnesses, and asking for examples of monetary incentives that might be offered to independent workers to save for retirement. Olson answered by explaining that employee models could be adapted for non-employee workers, and that the monetary incentives are the same for both groups: tax-deferred contributions into interest-bearing retirement accounts.

Olson’s testimony concluded that the insights she provided are meant to provide “flexible approaches to the availability, facilitation, administration and financial support of retiree benefits for independents engaged in the gig economy,” and are a way by which “we can support the financial future of these Americans, maximize our collective resources and further economic growth.”

Camille Olson’s full written testimony and a video of the hearing are both available on the Committee’s website.

 

Cassie Peterson