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As students have started another school year this Fall, conversations often return to teachers’ pay and the disparity between what they are undoubtedly worth and what they actually earn. In fact, Time magazine dedicated a recent cover story to the economic realities of being a teacher in today’s society. Perhaps in recognition of the long-standing pay issues, many teachers now use the gig economy as a way to supplement their income.

The gig economy is booming and politicians continue to take notice. To that point, Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) just introduced legislation designed to tackle tax issues that arise for gig economy workers.

In a move met with near-universal praise, Uber recently announced it will now require drivers take at least six hours of time off for every 12 hours they spend driving. After announcing this decision last month, Uber rolled it out across the United States over the course of two weeks. The company already has mandatory rest times in the United Kingdom where drivers must take a six hour break after 10 hour shifts. Fellow ride-sharing company Lyft currently has a mandatory break period after 14 hours of driving. In fact, several local laws already mandate certain rest periods after a length of time driving in order to combat drowsy driving. 

The phrase “gig economy” may immediately bring to mind transportation companies and food delivery services, but it has become so much more than that. Many different industries have begun to utilize the gig economy. As we have previously discussed, lawyers working on a short term contractual basis to perform tasks such as document review have recently become more common. Likewise, doctors are also taking part in the gig economy with the rise of telemedicine. Perhaps it should come as no surprise then that scientists are now also becoming active participants in the on-demand economy. 

The gig economy recently came close to a major honor when it was named a runner-up for the Collins Dictionary 2017 Word of the Year. This annual campaign reflects upon the words which have best defined the previous year. Other runner-ups for 2017 include “gender fluid” and “fidget spinner.”

U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta made the news again this week due to his remarks on the ever-growing gig economy and the need for increased legislative attention on this topic. As we discussed in an earlier blog post from just a few weeks ago, Acosta is already on the record as saying 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. His comments yesterday, repeating and amplifying his statement, demonstrate that his October 25 statement wasn’t just a passing remark.

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.

If you are a Millennial female with Facebook, I’ll make an educated guess that you have at least been invited to join a LuLaRoe group. Or perhaps you have recently attended (or hosted) a Stella and Dot party. Companies such as these have consultants who engage in “social selling.” For those unfamiliar with this trend, think of Tupperware parties of the past now in Facebook form where consultants can sell their leggings, jewelry, makeup, etc., from the comfort of their living room directly to their family, friends, and extended network. 

The gig economy has exploded in the last few years as more workers embrace side jobs and flexibility of assignments. New studies reveal that this trend should continue into the future. In fact, research group Recode has reported that the number of on-demand workers in the United States alone is expected to nearly double by 2021. That would equal at least 9.2 million Americans working an on-demand job – more Americans than are expected to work in more traditional employment stables such as construction.

The on demand economy is now far more expansive than transportation or food delivery. In fact, lawyers now make up a growing aspect of this market as an increasing number make themselves available as “contract attorneys” hired to perform limited tasks. For example, large law firms may hire a contract attorney to participate in a massive discovery project or assist with general document review. These jobs can last a day or two, or perhaps up to several months. The appeal to law firms (and their clients) is that contract attorneys often come at a lower hourly rate than a more traditionally employed attorney. This is especially true when firms in large cities enlist the work of out of town attorneys who can often work remotely.

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