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The nation’s foremost workplace safety agency has issued industry-specific guidance for a number of businesses in the past few months, and late last week it finally released a document designed to help gig economy companies navigate the nation’s reopening. OSHA’s “COVID-19 Guidance for Rideshare, Taxi, and Car Service Workers” is the first formal piece of guidance to help steer this large segment of workers toward best safety practices, and could also be used as a good starting point for other similar gig economy businesses.

Not so long ago – 2019, to be exact – in a state not so far, far away – California – lawmakers passed the nation’s most controversial misclassification law to sweep as many independent contractors into employee status as possible. By now, most businesses recognize that AB-5 is the dreaded state statute that codified the “ABC test” across California and not the name of a new protocol droid. And most companies that have independent contractors in the state, especially gig economy companies, are quite familiar with how far-reaching the statute is. But is it so sweeping in nature that it would snare the Mandalorian, one of the Star Wars universe’s newest heroes, in its grasp? This May 4th, we’ll explore this question together.

We wrote about this issue several times in 2018, and now we may be about to get answer to a question that could prove critical to the growth—or stagnation—of the gig work labor pool: does performing gig work in between full-time jobs disqualify a worker from receiving unemployment benefits? The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is about to become the first state high court to decide this issue, and the country waits with bated breath to hear the answer.

Our Memphis colleague, Greg Grisham, recently published a guest column in the Memphis Business Journal entitled: “Independent Contractors Now Eligible For Unemployment Compensation.”

Following a proposed and failed bill in the New York State legislature during Summer 2019 that would have created a new category of “Dependent Worker,” and California’s passage of AB-5, which codified the ABC “employment” test into law, all signs pointed to 2020 being the year that New York instituted a sea change to the definition of independent contractor.

There’s an old saying that out of crisis comes opportunity – and the gig economy may be on the verge of living that adage. Thanks to the two trillion-dollar Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act signed into law last week, the entire industry may be forever altered because independent contractors will temporarily be able to recover unemployment benefits. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program expands coverage under the state-by-state unemployment compensation system to individuals “not eligible for regular compensation or extended benefits under state or federal law or pandemic emergency unemployment compensation,” which includes, but is not limited to, certain gig economy workers. Who is now eligible, and what will this mean for the gig economy?

Last week we gave you a seven-step action plan for how gig economy companies can respond to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. A lot has changed in a week, so now it’s time to take a look around the industry to see how gig economy companies are actually responding to the crisis. You may consider adopting some of these same measures for your own company. 

Given that the gig economy is a relatively recent phenomenon, the industry has not yet experienced some of the trials and tribulations that more-established business models have survived. Now though, for the first time, gig economy companies are forced to weather the storm of a public health crisis that threatens to upend the daily lives of hundreds of millions of Americans. What should gig economy companies consider in the coming days, weeks, and months to deal with the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis? Here’s a seven-point plan you should review and consider adopting.

Over a million Californians have said they want a chance to vote on the misclassification law that threatens to upend the gig economy as we know it – and that means that their wish will soon be granted. Thanks to a signature-collecting effort that has already far surpassed the necessary 623,000 signatures needed to place a measure on the ballot, voters in California will have the opportunity to pass a law this November that will exempt certain gig economy workers from the reach of the ABC test and instead ensure they are classified as independent contractors. The ballot measure, known as the “Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Act,” would see typical app-based drivers established as contractors regardless of AB 5 or the findings of state regulators if voters agree. Gig economy companies in California – and their workers – are now one step closer to regaining the independence and freedom that separated them from the business-as-usual world to begin with.

A New Jersey lawmaker recently took a big step towards creating a system of benefits for gig economy workers. New Jersey State Senator Troy Singletary introduced Senate Bill 943 which, if enacted, would “establish a system for portable benefits for workers who provide services to consumers through contracting agents” in the state.

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