Airbnb Inc. recently announced it would no longer force its employees who filed sexual harassment lawsuits to settle their claims in private arbitration. The notice came only days after Google and Facebook made similar announcements concerning policy changes about sexual harassment, including ending forced arbitration for such claims. Google’s announcement followed a 20,000 employee walkout protesting the company’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations. As previously discussed on the blog, in May of this year, Uber and Lyft became two of the first gig companies to waive mandatory arbitration and remove the confidentiality requirement for sexual assault and harassment victims (for passenger, driver and employee claims).
On the heels of the NYC Council passing (and the mayor signing into law) a bill requiring minimum payments for ride-sharing drivers and a one-year freeze on the number of ride-sharing vehicle licenses issued, the NYC Council just passed another six new bills aimed at protecting both taxi drivers and ride-sharing drivers. The bills, approved by the Council on November 14 and expected to soon be signed into law by Mayor DeBlasio, are focused not only on drivers’ pay, but also on the financial and mental well-being of drivers in the wake of a spate of recent driver suicides and some of the more macro-economic issues facing the taxi and ride-sharing industries in NYC.
The Grubhub misclassification battle, which has dominated gig economy headlines for the past year or so, has taken another interesting turn. An Uber driver has jumped into the fray, offering his opinion about why the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals should conclude that the Grubhub driver at issue was incorrectly classified as an independent contractor.
Sure, the monetary portion of the settlement—$10 million to a class of approximately 400 Uber software engineers and over $2.6M in attorneys’ fees—is pretty eye-opening. But perhaps the more significant part of the settlement agreement that was just agreed to by a federal court judge on Wednesday were all of the non-monetary terms.
What would it be like if Care.com and Uber had a baby? A handful of Uber-like rideshare services that have sprung up across the country are illustrating exactly what would happen. These start-ups target well-off parents who are short on time and have kids with multiple obligations after school and on weekends. They offer safe, reliable, pre-scheduled rides to get unaccompanied kids and teens where they need to go.
Stock options, in large part, make some of the biggest public tech companies tick; a means of attracting top talent with the promise of big payouts down the road. In recent years, the gig economy has dominated the landscape in Silicon Valley and those lucky enough to land a job there have seen their personal fortunes grow overnight. Independent contractors, on the other hand – the pillars of the gig economy – have largely been left on the sidelines. That may soon change.
One of our firm’s most prolific writers and most astute analysts of all things related to workplace law in California, Ben Ebbink (Sacramento) wrote a recent post-election entry for the firm’s California Employers Blog entitled “What Will A Governor Newsom Mean For California Employers?” The entire post is worthy of your review, but two portions of his blog entry particular focus on the gig economy. Here are those two excerpts:
The first-ever trial on the gig economy misclassification to reach a judicial merits determination has now turned into the first-ever appeal on gig economy misclassification. And late Friday evening, the plaintiff seeking to overturn the ruling filed his opening appeals brief with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. We’ve covered the Lawson v. Grubhub decision in detail over the past year; if you want to refresh your memory, feel free to catch up by reading any of our posts. In sum, a federal trial court ruled in February 2018 that Grubhub correctly classified plaintiff Raef Lawson as an independent contractor and rejected his misclassification claim, but then the California Supreme Court changed the game a few months later by adopting the strict ABC test for misclassification in the now infamous Dynamex case. How will the Dynamex decision impact the Gurbhub appeal? We’re not sure, but we know how the plaintiff feels about it. We digested the 61-page appeals brief and can give you the three most important takeaways from the filing.
One of the drawbacks of entering the gig economy as a worker is that gig businesses are somewhat hamstrung by current law from providing a raft of benefits usually associated with full-time employment. That’s because companies that provide such benefits could run themselves into a problem by casting themselves close to the “employer” side of the misclassification debate. It’s a concern we have frequently written about, most recently just last month when Uber announced vague plans to begin offering benefits to its drivers. Now Lyft has joined the fray in a creative manner.
Frequent readers of our blog will recall our post from earlier this year where we referenced the efforts of gig economy company Handy to lobby legislators in a number of states to pass laws protecting the independent contractor status of individuals working in the online digital marketplace. That effort was recently successful in Tennessee.