New law aims to protect worker's rights


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SALT LAKE CITY -- A year ago, Dennis Chavez would have said he feared for the future of his drywall business. Today, his outlook is a bit better considering the state of Utah began enforcing a law that is intended to protect construction companies like Chavez'.

"We're very hopeful things will turn around. Not from an economic standpoint because the economy is what the economy is but from the levelness of the playing field" said Dennis Chavez of Chavez LLC.

Chavez is referring to attempts in the past three years to classify construction workers as "owners" of LLCs. Critics say the process had allowed for those LLCs to circumvent the state's payroll tax, worker compensation and unemployment laws.

State senator Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, calls the law that went into effect July 1st "landmark" legislation and a model for other states to follow.

"We needed to save our employers. We needed to save our employees," said Mayne.

The law is specific in defining the role of employee and owner to ensure worker's rights are protected and companies carry workers compensation insurance and pay unemployment insurance premiums. To be classified as an owner, a person must be an active manager, hold at least 8 percent ownership interest, or not be subject to workplace supervision.

Mayne says she has been contacted by lawmakers and business owners from states such as Hawaii, Colorado and Illinois who are interested in modeling legislation after Utah's law. "If you have a good piece of legislation, well thought out to the betterment of business and employees, it works," Mayne said.

E-mail: lprichard@ksl.com

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