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Biotech Blocked

Hardworking Single Mom Hurt by State’s IC Law

This is the true story of Andrea, a suddenly-single mother living west of Boston. She’s a graduate of UMass Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in animal science. Andrea has two charming pre-schoolers and no means of support. Despite being skilled, hardworking, flexible and personable, Andrea faces a situation she cannot fix.

A Responsible Scientific Employee. Andrea has over 10 years of experience in the biotech industry ranging from direct sample handling and processing, to analyzing the raw data that comes off the pipeline of automated equipment, to preparing the analysis for the user.

After graduating from UMass, Andrea worked in biotech for the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge. She moved up to a similar job in Waltham with a private company, where her department was purchased by a small startup in Beverly. Andrea was one of nine professionals who moved to the new company. She grew into a supervisory role in charge of a group that handled specialized and nonstandard projects. She commuted to these sites from her condo on the I-495 belt around Boston.

She got married and kept working. She and her husband bought a home well to the west of Boston because the location was convenient for his work, even though it was far from the cluster of biotech businesses closer to Boston. She continued to commute to Beverly, but when her second child arrived, the commute became impossible.

Balancing Family, Profession, and Location. As soon as her younger child, a son named Spencer, was old enough, Andrea resumed working. She found she could do the data analytics from home, and often filled in for other workers on maternity leave. She was converting Standard Operating Procedures to comply with clinical certification, as well as remotely handling and processing data. The work was part-time but paid her $35 per hour, the equivalent of $70,000 per year – roughly the rate she’d been making while employed full time, She was paid as a 1099, a contract worker. She worked steadily and got regular contract extensions.

Then her husband left. After that her client was purchased by a large corporation in Washington, DC. Her personal contacts at work left to join other, smaller companies that didn’t need outside help.

Andrea is direct in describing the thinking she faced. “Once you lose your ‘in,’ executives who don’t know you wonder why they should pay an outsider. There’s a resistance to outside contributors they don’t know. There are few positions in biotech for telecommuters.”

Logical Next Career Step: Serve a Larger Market. Andrea’s target companies are in Boston and Cambridge, North Carolina, and San Diego. The Boston and Cambridge companies are too far to commute to, since she’d be paying for both commuting expenses and day care for her two children. She tried signing up for online contractor referrals, but the Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law (MICL) prohibits companies from contracting with Massachusetts residents to do any type of work that the client company also performs. “I could get a job tomorrow if I didn’t have kids, or didn’t live in Massachusetts,” she says.

The work Andrea wants, does well, is trained for and is now prevented from doing, is only done by biotech companies. To survive, she takes occasional jobs at $10 to $15 per hour, about one-third of what she had been earning.

What would you do? Without contract work Andrea is stuck: 1) the MICL excludes her from the national biotech market for contract data analysis. 2) The MICL prevents biotechs in metro Boston from using her for project work on a try-out basis. 3) She can’t move her family closer to Boston (where the cost of living is even higher) without some assurance that she could find work there. 4) She can’t first get a job somewhere like Cambridge, then sell her home and move while also working and caring for her kids. 5) She can’t make ends meet at the lower pay she earns working outside her field. What would you do?

You can help change the MICL. You can help the tens of thousands of people whose lives and families, like Andrea’s, have been harmed by the MICL: Write or email your state Senators and Representatives to support the “Safe Harbor Amendment” to the MICL. Send a copy your legislative letters and emails to New Jobs. Please contribute to New Jobs so we can work to change this unfair law. And subscribe to our newsletter and pass it along to friends.

Every dollar you give--$5, $50, $500, $1,000--will help relax this harsh law.


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