Chronicle August 2019 Edition
Wade Coye Attorney
The Gig Economy Is Here What the Changing Nature of Work Means for Your Rights
provide less in benefits than they would have in decades past. Those engaging with the gig economy should be aware of the unique nature of their status from day one. If there’s a likelihood you could be injured at work, you need access to workers’ compensation insurance. Without it, you could be subject to huge medical bills in the event you get hurt. Even more troubling are the ways in which traditional employers are attempting to skirt regulation by labeling workers “independent contractors” even when they have no right to be. Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors, for example. Hell, even fighters in the UFC, who are tied to exclusive contracts barring them from fighting elsewhere, are deemed independent contractors. As such, the organization doesn’t even need to provide health insurance to the people who swell its pockets by beating each other up in a cage. Something is very, very wrong with that picture. Luckily, Florida is taking strides to limit the ability of employers to take advantage of this gray area. In the construction industry, you can no longer fill a job site with solely independent contractors. However, there are plenty of fault lines in the law that still give employers the latitude to provide little to no benefits to those who are, technically speaking, not their employees. As the way we approach work continues to change, the methods we use to protect average workers will have to change along with them. Until then, everyone should be vigilant about what their employer is and isn’t covering. In a world where the person who gives you orders doesn’t work for the company who signs your checks, nothing can be taken for granted.
In recent years, the phrase “gig economy” has become increasingly popular as a way to describe an emerging sector of the American workforce. The term refers to the workers who shun traditional employment arrangements in favor of piecemeal arrangements. A generation ago, most workers stayed with the same company for years, maybe even their entire career. Today, that’s much less likely. In fact, some workers don’t even have a traditional employer-employee relationship at all.
In the gig economy, where the lines between work and life are blurred, employers often provide less in benefits than they would have in decades past. Those engaging with the gig economy should be aware of the unique nature of their status from day one.
According to a 2018 study from NPR and Marist College, about 20% of all jobs in America are held by contracted workers. Within the next 10 years, the study projects, up to half of all jobs may be done on a freelance or contract basis. While many of those who participate in the gig economy do so voluntarily, others have no choice but to accept the terms given to them by somebody offering them work. On the one hand, eschewing traditional work arrangements can give a person increased freedom and flexibility. On the other, it can allow employers to deprive you of basic rights every worker should receive. Freelancers and other contracted workers need to be extremely careful about the nature of the agreements they make with employers. Even companies as big and prestigious as Google have come under fire for discrepancies in their treatment between full-time and contracted employees. In the gig economy, where the lines between work and life are blurred, employers often
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