News & Commentary

January 10, 2024

Linh Tang

Linh is a student at Harvard Law School.

The U.S. Department of Labor introduced a final rule on Tuesday that will make it more difficult for companies like Uber and Lyft to classify workers as independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Classification as employees, as opposed to contractors, wins meaningful benefits for workers, including minimum wage, overtime pay, protection for organizing activity, among others. This rule, scheduled to take effect on March 11, is closely monitored by major gig economy players and employers in construction, trucking, and healthcare sectors. The rule did and will likely continue to face legal challenges, including opposition from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and congressional review.

Google has lodged an appeal on the Fifth Circuit against the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), who ruled on January 3 that Google had unlawfully refused to negotiate with the union representing contract workers at YouTube. Those workers, directly employed by Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., were deemed jointly employed by Google in a decision by an NLRB regional director in March 2023, also upheld by the NLRB. The Cognizant workers subsequently voted 41-0 to unionize in April 2023. Since unionization, both Google and Cognizant have challenged the union’s legitimacy and refused to negotiate.

The Screen Actors Guild, representing 160,000 film and TV actors, has entered into an agreement that mandates permissions and guaranteed minimum payments whenever members’ voices are digitally reproduced in video games and other media. The union’s executive director announced the agreement with Replica Studios on Tuesday. This agreement, first of its kind, represents an important deal for the Guild, as the use of Artificial Intelligence was a pivotal issue during strikes by writers and actors last year.

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