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Posts from March 2017.

Intellectual property threats (IPT) to companies participating in the gig economy may be greater than those experienced by traditional business. While this may seem self-evident to some, reflection on the matter confirms to the rest of us that the gig sector is the more likely to only utilize internet platforms to deliver services or goods with innovative technology and digital strategies. This fact, when combined with the fast-paced advancement of cloud technology and the Internet of Things, requires gig companies to remain aggressive in operational matters and on the cutting edge of progress. 

In recent months, we’ve blogged about New Year’s predictions for the freelance or gig economy in 2017, New Year resolutions, and what the Trump presidency might mean for gig workers in general, (specifically, the President’s immigration and tax policies, as well as his overall pro-business/pro-American jobs outlook). What we’re most curious about for 2017 is whether we might see new federal laws advancing the sharing economy, especially given that the 2016 GOP platform hailed the industry as being in need of comprehensive reform. 

Many point to the Brexit movement as a sign that Donald Trump’s White House victory should have not been a surprise. Will a potential movement afoot in the United Kingdom be a precursor of things to come in the gig economy for the United States? 

If the City of Seattle has its way, your next ride-sharing driver could be part of a first-of-its-kind union. And if on-demand economy companies have their way, the courts will block any such unionization efforts before they end up altering the way these companies currently operate. Although this battle has been brewing for over a year, we’re reaching a critical point in the fight, and we might now the direction this situation will take sooner rather than later.

Late last week, a federal court judge in California approved a settlement agreement whereby ride-sharing company Lyft agreed to pay $27 million to approximately 95,000 California drivers who alleged they were misclassified as independent contractors. Unfortunately, the March 16, 2017 settlement fails to advance the cause of gig economy companies. Many had been hoping the settlement agreement would provide a structure to help prevent future misclassification claims in the industry, or at least develop some tangible guidelines to help companies navigate the complex and dangerous legal minefield surrounding the employee v. independent contractor debate. Instead, the agreement resolves the existing litigation but keeps the bigger question over misclassification alive.

According to a recent survey by Randstad US, an HR and staffing services company a growing number of workers prefer to be known as “contributors” rather than employees or independent contractors. Reflecting a restlessness in the jobs market, with over 63% of Millennials aiming to leave their current jobs to join the sharing economy, this new trend could lead regulators to developing a hybrid third classification somewhere between “employee” and “contractor.” In other words, it could be the answer we’ve all been looking for to eliminate the troublesome misclassification lawsuits that have hurt the growth of the new and modern economy.

The sharing economy has become so entrenched in our vocabulary and culture, it’s hard to remember when exactly the romance began. For Uber, the story started on a “snowy Paris evening in 2008” when two tech dudes had trouble convincing a chauffeur de taxi to rescue them from the elements. And thusly the biggest of the ride-sharing giants was born in 2009. Way back when, it wasn’t 50 Shades of late-model Nissan Sentra—it was all black Lincoln Town Cars, all day long.

The month of February and its immediate aftermath is always an exciting time for California legislation. That’s the month when legislators submit all of the new bills that will be sought for passage in the state legislature, and gives a clear window into what could be coming down the turnpike in new laws in the years to come. Some bills are proposed time and time again, only to be lost in committee or vetoed, but still showing up again the following year. Others disappear entirely. Some pass or fail, and cause shockwaves in the legislative landscape. 

I coauthored an article last week about Uber’s big misclassification victory in a California court. This decision has not (yet) received the national attention it deserves, probably because of the procedural quirks involved in the case. 

Not so long ago, corporate travel managers (no doubt encouraged by anxious lawyers) discouraged employees from using ride- and accommodation-sharing services such as Uber, Lyft, or Airbnb for business travel. Times have changed. According to a recent report in the Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report, about one-half of all companies surveyed now allow the use of ride-sharing services in corporate travel, and 30 percent of companies allowed the use of Airbnb for corporate travel, up significantly from last year. 

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