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Posts from October 2016.

On October 27, 2016, the New York City Council passed the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, the nation’s first wage theft protections for independent contractors. The Act creates harsh penalties for employers who delay or deny payments to freelancers and sets a strict time limit in which freelancers must be paid for their services.

There has been a long tradition of a “gig economy” in the utility contractor field (i.e., cable television, water, sewer, gas and electric). Often installers work by the job and have formalized their businesses by obtaining limited liability status and securing the necessary business insurance. However, government agencies often seek legal determinations which would make these individuals the employees of the utility provider from which they accept and receive job assignments.

The on-demand economy has a number of obvious benefits to individuals who wish to make money on their own terms by creating their own hours and essentially being their own boss. Likewise, gig economy staples such as Uber and Lyft have seen they can effectively serve their clientele by utilizing such individuals in lieu of hiring employees. However, as the popularity of this relationship continues to increase, more and more “traditional” companies are discovering that they can, and should, likewise incorporate aspects of the gig economy into their own organizational structure.

Uber’s inventive management style continues to be a topic of conversation in the gig economy world. In the wake of the $100M Uber class action litigation settlement being rejected (primarily due to monetary terms), a new case study explores Uber’s inventive use of “algorithmic management” to incentivize workers toward specific behaviors in order to achieve its desired result – providing exceptional service to its customers.

This week, the EEOC published its Strategic Enforcement Plan for 2017-2021. As in past years, the EEOC details substantive area priorities – those “activities likely to have a strategic impact in advancing equal opportunity and freedom from discrimination in the workplace.” Added to the list of Emerging and Developing Issues in this latest iteration of the document, the EEOC includes for the first time issues relating to the increasing use of alternative working relationships. Specifically, the EEOC intends to focus on issues related to temporary workers, staffing agencies, independent contractor relationships, and the on-demand economy, by “clarifying the employment relationship and the application of workplace civil rights protections in light of the increasing complexity of employment relationships and structures.” 

The Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has filed a complaint for unfair labor practices against Postmates, an on-demand delivery service that, according to its website, “connects customers with local couriers who can deliver anything from any store or restaurant in minutes.” The NLRB alleges that Postmates violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by prohibiting delivery workers from discussing the terms and conditions of their supposed “employment,” and by requiring the workers enter into arbitration agreements.

In its early years, the gig economy, led by ridesharing platforms Uber and Lyft, was touted as the new land of rugged individualism.

In a 2015 survey of Uber drivers in 20 cities across the United States, nine out of 10 Uber drivers reported that “being their own boss” was the primary reason they drive for the company. This new economic model upended the traditional notion that people want to have a permanent job for the financial security. Additionally, it replaced the idea of working one’s way up the corporate ladder with using new internet-based technologies to provide services on your own schedule, with your own equipment.

The New York Times reported yesterday that two Uber drivers were awarded unemployment benefits by the New York State Department of Labor. While the rulings were made earlier this summer in August and September, they had not previously been reported and are just now making news.

Seems you can’t swing a cat without hitting a new study aimed at better understanding the gig economy and gig workers. Just within the past couple of weeks, two important studies were released that provide in-depth data about types of gig workers and what motivates them.

Apparently, even a “no decision” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court can still establish precedent.

Relying on a Spring 2016 SCOTUS decision, a federal magistrate judge in California dismissed a proposed class action lawsuit by a driver against the ride-sharing company, Lyft, Inc., which had alleged privacy violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero ruled on Wednesday, October 5, 2016 that the driver, Michael Nokchan, lacked “standing” – the right to sue – guaranteed under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, because he could not demonstrate he suffered “concrete harm” as a result of Lyft’s manner of conducting background checks on job applicants.

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