The confusion surrounding worker classification is not a new topic for any gig economy employer. Whether gig workers are classified as employees or independent contractors is a constant battle businesses face both in the legislature and the judiciary. But independent contractor classification may have just gotten a little simpler in Texas thanks to the Texas Workforce Commission. The agency responsible for determining whether workers are properly classified and assessing unemployment taxes just adopted a rule on April 9 classifying workers hired for jobs through a digital app as independent contractors for unemployment insurance purposes. The TWC reasoned that its adoption of the rule provides employers with more stability in this growing sector of the economy.
Lyft recently filed for an initial public offering with the hopes of raising as much as $2.1 billion. As part of its registration statement for its IPO, Lyft acknowledged the company could be negatively impacted by several potential business risks. The filing acknowledged not only increased and intense competition from competitors, but also the specter of litigation across the country as drivers contest their classification as independent contractors and the applicability of Lyft’s arbitration agreement. Within its S-1, Lyft cited lawsuits disputing the employment status of its drivers – as well as new municipal regulations – as potential risks that investors should consider when evaluating the company.
As I wrote previously, it is no secret that labor laws have been unable to keep pace with the changing economy, despite challenges from the bench to address the needs of the gig economy. Certain state legislatures (e.g. Washington) have taken steps to address needs of gig workers, with their ‘Paid Family and Medical Leave’ program expanded to include self-employed workers. And efforts to make portable benefits available to the gig workforce are ongoing, mostly at the state level. However, federal legislative and regulatory entities are seemingly mulling their options and allowing the change to occur from the bottom. Voices from the gig upper strata are becoming impatient, and want immediate legislative change, at the top.
One of my favorite workplace law reporters, Tyrone Richardson of Bloomberg Law, had two stories in the past week addressing the issue of Congress and the gig economy. They present two sides of the same coin when it comes to the possible action that our nation’s federal lawmakers might take with respect to gig workers and the companies that retain their services.
The British government announced workplace reforms yesterday (which include new legislation) that will impact employers including gig economy companies, although the reforms do not seek a “radical reworking of existing business models.” The reforms set forth in the “Good Work Plan” are based on an independent review of modern working practices conducted by Matthew Taylor (“Taylor’s Review”), chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts. Taylor’s Review was commissioned by the Prime Minister, and the Reforms bring forward 51 of Taylor’s 53 recommendations.
December 3 was the first day of the new legislative session in California, the first day that members could introduce bills for the 2019-2020 legislative session. If the first day is any indication, there is one issue that will dominate employment policy discussion in 2019: Dynamex, Dynamex and Dynamex.
We’ve been expecting this since August, when the New York City Council passed a proposal establishing that ride-sharing driver should earn a minimum rate of pay, the first such minimum wage in the nation. Today, the other shoe dropped and the minimum wage was set.
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.
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:
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.