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I was able to virtually attend a session of Albany Law School’s 2020 Warren M. Anderson Legislative Seminar Series last week on “The Gig Economy,” bringing together some of the nation’s foremost thought leaders on the subject for a lively and informative panel. A recording of the May 28 hour-long session can be found here and is available for free. (Many thanks to Albany Law School for the invitation and for allowing us to share the link here.) I teamed up with Richard Rifkin, Legal Director, Government Law Center – who hosted the event – to develop this summary.

A federal court judge in Massachusetts just rejected Lyft’s attempt to escape the reach of Prong B of the ABC Test, indicating it was “likely” that its rideshare drivers are employees and not independent contractors. The news wasn’t great for Lyft, but more importantly, the May 22 decision doesn’t portend well for gig economy companies trying to fit their traditional business model into the strict confines of the ABC Test. For those operating in states where misclassification conflicts are resolved using the test – we’re looking at you, California – this development isn’t the best news, and is definitely worth tracking.

The nation’s foremost workplace safety agency has issued industry-specific guidance for a number of businesses in the past few months, and late last week it finally released a document designed to help gig economy companies navigate the nation’s reopening. OSHA’s “COVID-19 Guidance for Rideshare, Taxi, and Car Service Workers” is the first formal piece of guidance to help steer this large segment of workers toward best safety practices, and could also be used as a good starting point for other similar gig economy businesses.

Not so long ago – 2019, to be exact – in a state not so far, far away – California – lawmakers passed the nation’s most controversial misclassification law to sweep as many independent contractors into employee status as possible. By now, most businesses recognize that AB-5 is the dreaded state statute that codified the “ABC test” across California and not the name of a new protocol droid. And most companies that have independent contractors in the state, especially gig economy companies, are quite familiar with how far-reaching the statute is. But is it so sweeping in nature that it would snare the Mandalorian, one of the Star Wars universe’s newest heroes, in its grasp? This May 4th, we’ll explore this question together.

We wrote about this issue several times in 2018, and now we may be about to get answer to a question that could prove critical to the growth—or stagnation—of the gig work labor pool: does performing gig work in between full-time jobs disqualify a worker from receiving unemployment benefits? The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is about to become the first state high court to decide this issue, and the country waits with bated breath to hear the answer.

Last week we gave you a seven-step action plan for how gig economy companies can respond to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. A lot has changed in a week, so now it’s time to take a look around the industry to see how gig economy companies are actually responding to the crisis. You may consider adopting some of these same measures for your own company. 

Given that the gig economy is a relatively recent phenomenon, the industry has not yet experienced some of the trials and tribulations that more-established business models have survived. Now though, for the first time, gig economy companies are forced to weather the storm of a public health crisis that threatens to upend the daily lives of hundreds of millions of Americans. What should gig economy companies consider in the coming days, weeks, and months to deal with the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis? Here’s a seven-point plan you should review and consider adopting.

Over a million Californians have said they want a chance to vote on the misclassification law that threatens to upend the gig economy as we know it – and that means that their wish will soon be granted. Thanks to a signature-collecting effort that has already far surpassed the necessary 623,000 signatures needed to place a measure on the ballot, voters in California will have the opportunity to pass a law this November that will exempt certain gig economy workers from the reach of the ABC test and instead ensure they are classified as independent contractors. The ballot measure, known as the “Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Act,” would see typical app-based drivers established as contractors regardless of AB 5 or the findings of state regulators if voters agree. Gig economy companies in California – and their workers – are now one step closer to regaining the independence and freedom that separated them from the business-as-usual world to begin with.

Gig economy company Instacart lost the latest round of its misclassification battle in San Diego yesterday, as a California state court judge granted a preliminary injunction forcing it to reclassify its independent contractor workers as employees. But the judge took some of the sting out of the ruling by putting on hold any enforcement efforts by the city, allowing this “lively area of the law” to work itself out a bit more before dropping the hammer on the company. The February 24 ruling is the latest example of the ABC Test in action, demonstrating just how disastrous it could be to the traditional gig economy model and just how far it can be taken by aggressive government officials.

My colleague Todd Lyon wrote an excellent piece earlier this week about the House of Representatives passing the PRO Act, essentially a “wish list” for labor advocates seeking to tip the scales back towards unions. One of the items tucked away in that long laundry list of provisions that would come to pass should this bill become law: the notorious ABC test would be put into place across the country. Currently restricted to just a handful for states (most infamously, California), this test would become the law of the land if the House has its way.

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