Kevin James, Founding Director of Arts and Learning Initiatives, says the common practice of treating TAs as if we are independent contractors, instead of employees, is a disaster-in-waiting. His note is reprinted from the ATA Digest: *
"The question of employment status among teaching artists is a 9.0 earthquake waiting to happen. As a consultant often called to help arts organization develop a program design for education initiatives that both fit and enhance their mission, I advice each organization that there are almost no situations in which a teaching artist working under their banner could be considered an independent contractor. However, inexplicably, I find that many continue to attempt to classify their artists as contract workers. It needs to be said - the status of employment is measured by the activity of the parties involved. The signing of contracts has no bearing on legal determinations surrounding a determination of employment. If any of the following exists, a teaching artist is by law, an employee: the parent organization maintains or mandates their teaching schedule, provides or requires a specific training regimen, retains the right to remove them from a job or contract (if they're not an employee, you can't fire them), provides a curriculum, limits the use of substitution or rescheduling of services, allows or gives the impression that the teaching artist works for you instead of for the client, and in some cases uses a program name which implies any of the above. The only model in which a teaching artist is not an employee is one in which the arts organization acts merely as a booking agent and receives fees only for providing a roster to clients and maintaining the system of billing. To put it another way - if an organization has received grant money in support of the development or implementation of an arts education program, the teaching artists is uses in that program are, by definition, employees. The penalties for misrepresenting employment status and/or failing to pay into the state unemployment fund on their behalf can be extreme, and can be imposed retroactively.
But forget all that. Don't your teaching artists deserve the protections of unemployment benefits?
And don't even start me on the issue of liability umbrellas for those working with children...
Bottom line, the leaders in our industry need to start whispering in the ears of our politicians about offering an amnesty to arts organizations, maybe even along with some funding to ease the transition, in exchange for an industry wide push to clean up our employment practices. That's my two cents. I hope it's helpful."
*If you were on Dale's List, you would have gotten this post in your email inbox already. Join the conversation. Sign-up, and you'll get stuff like this nearly every day.