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Posts from October 2017.

The on-demand economy recently got some attention from a very powerful source. On October 25, U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta stated during an event organized by the Jack Kemp Foundation that he believes the current administration should consider how to update existing laws to keep up with the rise of the gig economy, and technology changes in general.

The parties in the Grubhub misclassification case are back in court on Monday, October 30, delivering their final closing arguments to the judge. We’ve written about the trial extensively. To sum it up, though: a former delivery driver for Grubhub (Raef Lawson) claims he was misclassified as an independent contractor, and seeks to advance his claims on behalf of a whole class full of other drivers. Raising the stakes dramatically is the fact that this could very well be the first independent contractor misclassification claim for the gig economy has reached a judicial merits determination. Although the ultimate decision by the judge will not necessarily make or break the gig economy as a whole, this is an important milestone.

A terrible horde of mindless creatures takes over civilization, rendering our world virtually unrecognizable and changing everything about it. There’s nothing you can do to stop them. Every day, more and more of them appear. They’ll never go away, no matter what you do. Your life is forever altered in ways you never imagined. You just wish everything would return to normal.

Waking up to news of another major data breach seems to have become a daily routine. On the front pages and cable news, we hear about hackers, rogue governments, and shadowy figures involved with these data breaches. But too often we overlook the fact that most data breaches are not the stuff of Tom Clancy novels. Instead, businesses in the gig economy regularly confront serious but smaller-scale “inside jobs” – data theft by employees seeking to use information like customer lists or financial data for personal gain, often by bringing that information to a new job with a competitor. 

Yesterday, Upwork and the Freelancers Union published the results of Freelancing in America: 2017, a comprehensive annual measure of the U.S. independent workforce. The report’s findings are wide-ranging, from the number of people who freelance (57.3 million), to the annual contribution of freelance earnings to the economy ($1.4 trillion), to the generation with the highest percentage of freelance workers (no surprise: Millennials at 47%).

Roughly 3,500 miles on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the British government is contemplating an idea which will marry the national healthcare industry with the gig economy. Such an idea could send a ripple toward the United States if it bears success.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently placed a temporary halt on the ongoing misclassification litigation against Uber, pointing out that it would make sense to wait for a key Supreme Court decision before proceeding further. The order gives the parties a bit of breathing room and allows them to retreat to their neutral corners for a temporary reprieve from the grind of class action litigation, but it is only a temporary pause. Once the ruling comes down from the SCOTUS, the combatants will be right back at it.

In a case previously discussed by my colleague Linda Gulledge, a federal judge in eastern Pennsylvania has rebuffed Uber once again in its attempt to rid itself of potentially expensive wage claims. In December 2016, as Linda described, federal judge Michael Baylson ordered “expedited discovery” on the issue of the compensability of UberBlack drivers’ on-call time. Fast forward about nine months.

Should the legislative branch of the federal government focus its efforts on regulating the gig economy at the present time, or should they stick to bigger picture topics to occupy their time (such as healthcare or updating the federal tax code)? Should Congress step in and develop a system to provide employee benefits to gig workers? And the million dollar question: should our federal representatives take a stab at revising the independent contractor misclassification test to account for the changes in modern society brought about by the advent of gig work? Due to the growth and sheer breadth of the gig economy, these are but a few of the issues that need to be resolved.

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