NELP Releases New Studies of “Gig Economy” Workers’ Rights

Three new policy briefs from NELP take a closer look at “gig economy” workers’ rights.

We consider why “on demand” workers generally aren’t covered by workers’ comp, even though their jobs are among the most dangerous; our op-ed in today’s Quartz also makes the case. We question whether the much-touted flexibility of these jobs really must come at the expense of employee protections. And we examine whether companies are running afoul of civil rights laws in how they screen job applicants.

The briefs are the latest in NELP’s “Rights on Demand” series, which includes the eponymous foundational report, Rights on Demand, and a fact sheet on model employer practices.

More about the new policy briefs, below.

On-Demand Workers Should Be Covered by Workers’ Compensation

Many on-demand companies operate in dangerous industries with high workplace injury and fatality rates. Yet they classify their workers as “independent contractors” and thereby avoid the responsibility of providing workers’ compensation and other employee protections. This practice presents real costs to the workers hired by these companies and shifts the cost of work-related injuries onto the backs of workers and the general public. The job-related dangers to which these workers are exposed makes it critical that they be covered by workers’ comp.

Flexibility and the On-Demand Economy

On-demand companies often tout flexibility as one of the main reasons why people choose to work for them. This brief challenges that premise, however, showing that monetary pressures, peak demand periods, and company-imposed rules and incentives mean workers have much less flexibility than the companies claim. The brief also debunks the assertion that flexibility is incompatible with employee status.

Ensuring Fairness in Background Checks for On-Demand Work

On-demand companies promote the idea that they provide work opportunities for people in communities with high unemployment. But many of these companies fall short when it comes to complying with the civil rights and consumer laws regulating the use of background checks for employment. Strong protections are needed to ensure that companies use non-discriminatory hiring practices.


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