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).
It should come as no surprise that New York City is home to a large number of freelancers—approximately 400,000 according to the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs. In order to assist this growing population, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment of recently announced that a Freelancers Hub will be opening at the Made in NY Media Center in Brooklyn during the first week of October.
Just last month, Uber announced that it would no longer require its passengers, drivers, or employees to arbitrate their individual claims of sexual assault and sexual harassment, allowing such claims to proceed in court. Uber’s Chief Legal Officer Tony West stated in a blog post: “We have learned it’s important to give sexual assault and harassment survivors control of how they pursue their claims. So moving forward, survivors will be free to choose to resolve their individual claims in the venue they prefer: In a mediation where they can choose confidentiality; in arbitration, where they can choose to maintain their privacy while pursuing their case; or in open court.” Uber will also no longer require those who settle sexual assault or harassment claims to sign non-disclosure agreements. Hours after Uber’s announcement, Lyft announced that it, too, would waive mandatory arbitration and remove the confidentiality requirement for sexual assault and harassment victims.
Last month, 19-year-old Antawani Wright-Davis, who worked as a bicyclist delivering food for an app-based food delivery service, was struck and killed by a dump truck while working in Boston. Because of Wright-Davis’ status as an independent contractor, his estate was not eligible for any kind of workers’ compensation benefits. Unable to pay for his funeral, his family started a GoFundMe page to help with expenses.
The United States is expected to see a shortage of 40,000 to 104,000 physicians by 2030. Due to this anticipated need for primary care physicians, freelance work among the healthcare industry is becoming increasingly popular. For the longest time, temporary positions could only be obtained through brokers and agencies. But dealing with these middlemen proved to be more trouble than it was worth. For physicians, it was a lengthy and time-consuming process; for healthcare providers, it was a costly endeavor just to find interested workers.
My colleague Brandy Cody recently published a blog post that described several tools available to gig workers to help them manage their work. As predicted by one attorney in thier blog post a couple of weeks ago, companies are beginning to develop new solutions for their workers without government coercion or intervention, using ingenuity to adapt to changing times.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen states and other local governments pass or introduce laws to regulate the gig economy. Most recently, for example, the city of Seattle passed a law allowing the unionization of app-based gig drivers, and California introduced similar legislation called the 1099 Self-Organizing Act which would allow gig workers the right to collectively bargain for benefits and wages. Massachusetts enacted a law which implements a new background check system for gig economy rideshare companies, and New York just passed a bill the will prohibit short-term rentals on Airbnb.
Just last week, Airbnb, an online marketplace for people to list, find and book lodging around the world, permanently banned a host in North Carolina after the host cancelled an African-American guest’s reservation and used racial slurs against her.