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In a follow-up to our discussion earlier this summer regarding discrimination and the sharing economy, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) recently settled a charge of discrimination with a sharing economy rental market host who allegedly made disparaging racial comments and canceled a guest’s reservations as the guest was traveling to the property in a snowstorm.

Recent studies have reported that race and gender disparities are not uncommon in the sharing economy. For example, it’s been reported that some gig workers were discriminating against customers with names that “sounded Black.” Women and workers of color are more likely to garner negative reviews from customers. And now, a recent study found that people with disabilities are more likely to be rejected through Airbnb than their comparators without disabilities. The study, conducted by Rutgers University, found that 75% of travelers who made no mention of a disability were granted pre-approval. For those who mentioned a disability, the pre-approval rate dropped from anywhere between 25% to 61% depending on the disability.

A while back, we posted about corporate travel and the sharing economy, noting the burgeoning acceptance of ride-sharing expenses by corporate America. Despite ongoing criticism and litigation, the sharing economy continues to grow, and now it appears even the federal government embracing sharing.

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. 

In an effort to head off litigation by workers claiming they have been misclassified as contractors, companies using a largely on-demand workforce have been working with the New York State Assembly to develop a system of portable benefits to provide occasional workers with some level of benefits that would be available to them despite not being attached to a particular employer.

On October 28, the Central London Employment Tribunal held that Uber drivers are not self-employed. As a result, the drivers are entitled to certain “worker” benefits, including paid holidays and a minimum wage. Under the law in England and Wales, “workers” occupy a middle ground between employees and the self-employed, with employees entitled to additional benefits such as severance in a reduction-in-force also known as redundancy pay (Scotland’s system differs). Workers are entitled to fewer benefits than employees, but have certain minimum protections, unlike the self-employed.

It is estimated that more than one in three Americans currently perform some freelance work, whether as a supplement to their day jobs, or as their full-time gig. We all know (because the media tells us) that millennial workers are flocking to freelance work. But a changing work culture means that more experienced workers are also embracing “free-range employment,” either by choice or necessity.

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