Gig economy companies in Texas were on the receiving end of two pieces of good news in the last several weeks. Most recently, the state legislature passed and the governor signed into law a bill that will all but assure ride-sharing companies that their workers will be classified as independent contractors and not subject to costly misclassification cases. As my Dallas partner Art Lambert wrote in a legal alert from earlier this week, H.B. 100 ensures that any driver working for a transportation network company (TNC), defined as any entity using a digital network to connect a rider to a driver to provide prearranged rides, is properly classified as an independent contractor as long as long as four simple requirements are met.
In Season 3 of Netflix’s animated series BoJack Horseman, Todd (Aaron Paul) decides to start a gig economy company called “Cabracadabra.” This company provides Uber-like transportation but with only women drivers so that there is a “safe space” for women passengers in the transportation gig economy. Although this idea comes from a cartoon (and may have other problems in concept under various other antidiscrimination laws) it addresses a concern in the gig economy: consumer safety and vicarious liability. In other words, when someone is performing services in the gig economy for a consumer and something goes wrong, where does the consumer turn for recourse? Can gig economy companies avoid all responsibility for the acts of their contractors?