Gig News – May 4th

Jon Weinberg

Jon Weinberg is a student at Harvard Law School.

This post is part of an ongoing series on labor and the gig economy.

The Recorder profiled Shannon Liss-Riordan, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the Uber and Lyft California worker classification suits previously covered by OnLabor and described in detail by Bloomberg BNA.  The profile describes Liss-Riordan’s background and motivations, and provides background on the cases and their implications.  Regarding the cases, the profile notes that “after losing bids for summary judgment last month, Uber brought on a team led by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Theodore Boutrous Jr., an experienced trial lawyer and Supreme Court advocate, while Lyft added San Francisco litigation powerhouse Keker & Van Nest to its roster” and that  “Liss-Riordan filed a motion for class certification in her Uber case, claiming she will use the company’s contracts with its drivers to “show Uber had baseline policies regarding rules that drivers were required to follow.”” Liss-Riordan was also profiled in New York magazine.

National Labor Relations Board member Harry Johnson told attendees of a recent Emory University School of Law symposium that the NLRB will soon have to determine how to adapt federal labor law to cases involving gig economy firms, according to Politico.  He said a challenge “is going to be how the National Labor Relations Act adapts its casual employee doctrines, how it adapts its employee doctrines, how it adapts its independent contractor doctrines to that pending development in the economy.”

The San Francisco Business Times reports that “a San Francisco janitor who had his face slashed by a passenger while working a nightshift as an UberX driver has filed a lawsuit seeking workers compensation insurance coverage from Uber Technologies, the ride hailing platform that classifies its drivers as independent contractors.”  The plaintiff claims that Uber mis-classifies him as an independent contractor rather than an employee, but the court could find that he is entitled to workers compensation without determining his employment status.

Uber is claiming that it could create 8,000 jobs in Toronto by the end of 2015 if allowed to operate there, according to the Toronto Star.  Critics, however, question whether the legalization of Uber would merely reallocate work from taxi drivers and primarily for drivers contracting with Uber in addition to other jobs.  Toronto’s city government is seeking a court injunction to prevent Uber’s entry into the city due to safety concerns.

The Boston Globe notes Massachusetts’ highest court ruled last week that “three taxi fleet owners were right to classify cabbies as independent contractors instead of employees, derailing a lawsuit that could have upended the city’s billion-dollar taxi industry.”  Staffing Industry Analysts elaborates that the court indicated the decision will not likely serve as precedent for other industries or even for “digital service providers” like Uber and Lyft.

Buzzfeed published a story on gig economy firms that electively chose to classify their workers as employees rather than independent contractors.  Representatives of the companies cite different reasons for their decisions, both in the interest of their employees as well as the companies themselves.

A recent report covered by Staffing Industry Analysts concludes that only 9% of independent contractors in the United States use gig economy platforms and that those that participate in the gig economy make less than other contractors, even when adjusting for age and experience.  The report also found that 83% of gig economy contractors are part-time.

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