House Bill 1076, the “Bounty Hunter” bill will make George Orwell turn in his grave
House Bill 1076 (HB 1076), currently waiting for a vote in the Washington House of Representatives, would allow third parties, or “relators,” to bring a lawsuit or so-called “qui-tam action” against an employer on behalf on a government agency for a perceived violation of statutes that govern the employee workplace and employer and employee relationship.
The person bringing the lawsuit (legitimate or not) will receive up to 40% of the settlement should the lawsuit succeed. There is no penalty to the ‘Bounty Hunter’ for filing the suit.
It literally encourages the filing of lawsuits against employers for ‘perceived’ workplace violations, turning everyone in the state into potential tattletales on companies they may have a personal grudge against or a competitive interest in seeing the company fail.
HB 1076 is legislation looking for a problem that doesn’t exist. State law already provides for an employee to bring a lawsuit against an employer for violations of workplace safety and other work-related issues.
- House Bill 1076 does not add any additional protections for employees and is unnecessary legislation.
- Employer liability insurance rates will increase as a result of the increased potential for lawsuits, even if they are frivolous.
- Employers will see an increase in ‘Bounty Hunter’ lawsuits filed against them from disgruntled employees.
- Employers will be less likely to hire independent contractors due to the risk of litigation thus hurting job opportunities for workers.
- The independent contractor market would shrink should House Bill 1076 become law.
The provision in HB 1076 for independent contractors to sue employers for misclassification of employment status is similar to the class-action lawsuit that was won in 2000 against Microsoft Corporation for $97 million by a group of independent contractors who claimed Microsoft had denied them job benefits. As a result, companies in Washington now put strict limits on the time a contractor can work for a company, including the length of the contract and the number of hours worked.
HB 1076 would have the same harmful effect on independent contractor workers should it be passed into law.
In the post pandemic recovery, HB 1076 will limit the job market recovery and is unnecessary and over-burdensome regulation that would be harmful to workers. It would add no additional protections to employees and would only make it easier for disgruntled employees to file frivolous lawsuits against employers.
For a more detailed analysis of HB 1076, you can read more here.