One-of-a-kind, N.C. newspaper carrier-contractor statute is repealed

Repeal returns N.C. to same test for independent contractor status as rest of U.S.

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Fending off another attack by industry opponents in the Oct. 4 special session of the N.C. General Assembly, the North Carolina Press Association stopped an effort to presume all newspaper carriers in the state to be employees, subject carriers to state workers comp and unemployment insurance taxes, and create a new test for independent contractor status. Passage of the bill would have been a sea change for publishers in the Old North State.

Instead, state lawmakers settled for repealing the nation's only state law that presumed carriers to be independent contractors in carrier injury cases. North Carolina publishers now return to defending the uncommon carrier suit the way all publishers do, through the use of a contract defining the carrier-publisher relationship and managing the contract as industry lawyers have long counseled. Only time will tell if the repeal of this "carveout" will prompt state plaintiff's lawyers to file more injury claims, as difficult as the cases are to win in normal circumstances. In any event, North Carolina publishers remain well equipped to defend the independent contractor status of their carriers and distribution agents.

John Bussian is legislative and First Amendment counsel for the North Carolina Press Association and chair of SNPA's Government Affairs Committee.

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