July 11, 2012
We went to Albany last Wednesday, July 11, with a mission: to save yoga as we know it in New York State.
As many of you know, the State has been scrutinizing yoga studios and organizations over the issue of Independent Contractor (IC) vs. Employee status. If their current actions stayed on track, many small and mid-sized studios would be forced to close.
Here's what happened:
-A group of studio owners and teachers presented their stories about the need for both IC and Employee structures so that studios won't be forced to close
-The Department of Labor representatives admitted they had never heard of some of the situations presented before and expressed a desire to help work these issues out.
In the next several months we will be pursuing the following:
1. Helping the Department of Labor redefine what it means to be an Independent Contractor versus Employee in the yoga world
2. Trying to confirm a moratorium on audits until these issues are clarified, including the potential forgiveness of fines that were inaccurately levied against studios
3. Creating a collaboration process so that the Department of Labor can work with us to create standards we can follow - that are accurate and will help businesses stay open
Warm thanks go to our representatives, who were either at the meeting in person and or by conference phone call to support yoga businesses in New York:
-Senator Bill Perkins
-Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal (conf. call)
-Cheyenne Rosenbaum, Representing City Councilwoman Gail Brewer
March 26, 2012
A number of serious issues are confronting Yoga studios both in NY City specifically and in NY State in general.
The three major issues to be addressed are these:
• A move to tax yoga classes
The city is running audits on various studios, claiming that they should be taxing classes (4.5%) in the same way fitness studios do. We are trying to find out if, in fact, the tax is appropriate. Yoga classes are not specifically listed among the services and classes that are taxable. The matter is therefore open to interpretation. But this could mean adding close to $1.00 to a $20 class, a cost that gets passed on to the student, alas, and that also might mean waiting longer to raise the price of a class if that was in the cards for this year. One studio is being sued for three years of back taxes, which makes this an even more threatening situation, as those back taxes would have to come out of the studio owner's pocket. This needs to be addressed head on and swiftly.
• Independent Contractor status
The State is putting pressure on studios to treat Independent Contractors (teachers teaching 2-6 hours of classes a week) as employees, meaning a slew of clerical and financial obligations (taxes and insurance). While every yoga studio should look out for the welfare of its teachers, almost no studio but the very largest could easily survive when burdened with the thousands of dollars in extra cost that this would represent. Teachers and studio owners need to be fully informed of Independent Contractor requirements. We also need to help the city understand that it should back off on its huge push against Yoga studios as sources of taxation and funding in this taxing economy, so to speak. To recapitulate: this is a two-pronged issue: how we need to avoid problems by being prepared; what we need to do to help get the city off our case.
• Certificate of Occupancy
This is a yoga facility issue. The city is coming after Yoga studios for licensing fees that can be as high as $30,000. Dance or movement spaces are free of this obligation. Insofar as most Yoga studios are closer to dance than to fitness centers, there is no compelling reason to treat them differently. This represents again a considerable burden for smaller studios.
All Yogis, whether students, teachers or owners, should have an interest in these issues and participate in solving them, since they affect the bottom line in a significant way. If you or someone you know is in the process of dealing with any of these issues, please contact me directly at 212 510 7404 or email email@example.com so that we can discuss the situation prior to the meeting. If you have met with lawyers or government officials, please alert me to that as well. It is vital that we have as much concrete information from as many persons as possible for this meeting.
Selected press coverage:
Yoga City NYC: "Awareness of Continued Licensing Threat: What Yoga for New York is Doing" November 8, 2009.
The Huffington Post: "To Regulate or Not Regulate Yoga Teacher Training" by Jane Shure, July 28, 2009.
The New York Times: "Yoga Faces Regulation, and Firmly Pushes Back," by A.G. Sulzberger, July 10, 2009.
New York Daily News: "Albany fools tie yoga in knots: State bureaucratic crackdown is downright crazy," by Bill Hammond, May 19, 2009.
APRIL 16, 2009 undefined NYS Education Department sends licensing letter to 80 NYC yoga studios.
MAY 14, 2009 undefined Attorney Len Easter, speaking at Yoga Journal's NYC conference, advises recipients to write back saying you have received the letter and are looking into how it relates to your center and its programs.
MAY 15, 2009 undefined Alison West and other concerned parties meet with the BPSS.
JUNE 2, 2009 undefined Senator Eric Scheiderman, introduces a bill (S.5701 of 2009) to exempt yoga teacher training programs from licensing.
JUNE 8, 2009 undefined Assembly member Deborah Glick, introduces a bill calling for dramatic increases in fees for schools seeking a license.
JUNE 19, 2009 undefined BPSS sends a letter to an individual teacher trainer "...deferring any prosecutions at this time." But, the letter also said, "Our position is that Yoga teacher training schools should be licensed... The bottom line is that until an exemption is passed, licensing would cover teacher training."
JULY 31, 2009 undefined Senator Scheiderman amends his bill to explicitly include yoga and martial arts as exempted subjects, and clarifies that those teaching teachers of exempted subjects are also exempt. Assemblywoman Rosenthal follows suit on August 17. (The new bill is S.5701-A/A.8678-A of 2009.)
AUGUST 21, 2009 undefined BPSS writes to teacher trainers: "At this time, we will not require licensure nor will we pursue any organization offering this training as an unlicensed school."
FEBRUARY 23, 2010 undefined The "Yoga" bill passes in the Assembly (A.8678-A)
MARCH 1, 2010 undefined The "Yoga" bill passes in the Senate (S.5701-A)
MARCH 24, 2010 undefined The "Yoga" bill was signed into law by Governor Paterson. Yoga teacher trainings are now exempt from licensing in NY State.