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How the gig economy is creating confusion for employers and workers alike

There's a saying related to the fact that the only thing you can count on is that things will always change. For U.S. workers, gone are the days when an individual was hired right out of high school or college and pledged allegiance to and rose through the ranks of one company throughout his or her working years. Today, not only are people likely to have several jobs during their lifetime, but the jobs they hold may have various employment classifications.

While full-time jobs were once the expected norm today, according to Intuit, an estimated 40 percent of the U.S. workforce is comprised of "freelance, temp and part-time workers." Increasingly, a significant percentage of these non-traditional workers are working jobs in the so-called gig economy.

From ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft to home cleaning service providers like Handy, companies that are part of the gig economy depend upon independent contractors to provide services to customers via the company's app or Internet-based business model. While these companies often appeal to workers by promising them flexible schedules and more independence and control, when it comes to U.S. labor laws, many are walking a very fine line.

In order to be able to legally classify a worker as an independent contractor, and avoid paying certain benefits and taxes, a company cannot exert control over how a worker performs his or her job or carries out assigned tasks. Rather, the focus must be on the completed task or work and as long as the desired goal is achieved, a company should not dictate how this happens. However, increasingly concerns are being raised by regulators and workers alike that companies that operate within the gig economy are controlling too many aspects of how worker completes assigned duties.

From how a worker gets work assignments to how he or her carries out these assignments and is evaluated while doing so; companies like FedEx and Uber are being called out as misclassifying workers who should be afforded the same benefits as part-time and full-time employees. 

Individuals who are working in the gig economy and who have concerns that an employer is taking advantage of their independent contractor status, may choose to contact an attorney.

Source: Fast Company, "THE GIG ECONOMY WON'T LAST BECAUSE IT'S BEING SUED TO DEATH," Sarah Kessler, Feb. 17, 2015

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