By now, you’ve probably heard the good news: a federal judge yesterday ruled in favor of Grubhub and pronounced that a delivery driver who was challenging the independent contractor classification model was not, in fact, an employee. This appears to be the first time that a classification case in the gig economy reached a judicial merits determination, so it’s sort of a big deal. And while it only applies specifically in California, the decision rested upon a familiar test (centered around the company’s “right to control” its workers) that is commonly used in other jurisdictions across the country, and could be used by other courts looking to rule on similar cases.
In what is believed to be the first time in our nation’s history that a trial court has reached a judicial merits determination in a gig economy misclassification case, a federal judge in California ruled in favor of the company this afternoon and found that a delivery driver was properly classified as an independent contractor. By rejecting the driver’s claim that he was actually an employee deserving of minimum wage, overtime, and other benefits associated with employee status, the court handed gig economy companies everywhere a groundbreaking victory.
Early last month, we told you that a critical trial ruling in a gig economy misclassification case could be put on hold because a separate court was mulling whether to loosen the test to make it easier for workers to succeed in independent contractor misclassification cases. That other court—the California Supreme Court—heard oral arguments yesterday on that very topic, and every gig economy company should be on notice.
Of all the public policy debates surrounding the gig economy of late, one of the hottest topics has been “portable benefits” – the concept that gig economy workers should have flexible, portable benefits that they can take with them from job to job, or “gig to gig.” This push just got a major jumpstart that may turn out to be a game-changer.
An international crowd of approximately 60,000 people attended the Web Summit Lisbon last month where one of the most pressing questions posed during the conference was: “How do we create a future of work that works for everyone?” As it relates to the gig economy, a three-person panel attempted to answer that question. And one of the panel members (Richard Socarides, the Head of Public Affairs at Gerson Lehrman Group) recently wrote an article highlighting the six big picture takeaways from the panel discussion.
In 2017, we saw how women across the globe have been using the gig economy as a means of gaining some financial independence. A recent report by the Overseas Development Institute even explored how the gig economy is benefiting Syrian women refugees in Jordan.
Meanwhile, women in the United States have also enjoyed earning money while balancing other responsibilities. In a study published last spring, Hyperwallet examined how American women were experiencing gig work, providing useful insight to gig companies on how they can attract, support, and retain female gig workers.
The first few days of 2018 might not be going to plan for those gig economy businesses hoping that the new year might bring some relief in the seemingly never-ending misclassification struggle. As we sit on pins and needles waiting for a decision from the trial court judge in the blockbuster Grubhub trial (you can familiarize yourself with the trial here and here if you need a refresher), the plaintiff’s attorney is asking for a delay in the court’s ruling. Yesterday, plaintiff Raef Lawson’s attorney provided the court with a quick one-page filing that might otherwise seem innocuous; after all, it was just a “Notice of Supplemental Authority,” a common legal tool intended to alert the court to some additional legal precedent that might impact the case. But its contents could signal that a bombshell is on the way.
While the national debate rages on among policymakers, gig businesses, and worker advocates about whether and how to offer benefits to gig workers, some gig businesses are coming up with creative benefit offerings to meet at least some of the needs of gig workers.
By most objective measurements, the Labor Department’s December 4 jobs report was solid. CNN Money reported that employers added 228,000 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate remained at a 17-year low of 4.1%. Meanwhile, average weekly paychecks increased by 3.1% over the last 12-months, the first time that reading has topped 3% in nearly seven years. According to gloval talent solutions firm Randstand Sourceright, the strong November jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics can partly be credited to the gig economy. According to its analysis, 61% of employers plan to switch up a significant chunk of their full-time permanent positions (one-third or greater) to contingent jobs at some point in the near future. This continuing pivot towards a gig model has helped streamline operations and demonstrates the continued value of the freelance workforce for any organization.
Over the last few months, there has been a lot of discussion about Blockchain technology and its potential to revolutionize and transform the sharing or gig economy. If you’re like me, your first question might be, “What the heck is Blockchain?”