Legislation Aims to Permanently Identify Gig Workers as Independent Contractors

Liz Carey

Nashville, TN (WorkersCompensation.com) – Legislation to permanently identify gig workers as independent contractors is gaining ground across the country.

Pushed into several state legislatures by online service provider Handy, the bills would allow online service providers to have more control over the individuals that work for them, while still calling them independent contractors.

Handy is an online platform that connects people with those willing to do handy work, like services that range from handyman chores to plumbing to putting together IKEA furniture. The company introduced legislation in eight states that would allow them to tell a worker when and how to do a job, monitor their activities and set their compensation rates, without having to call them employees.

If passed it would mean that Handy would be out from under any possible legal scrutiny for wage and hours violations, while allowing them to permanently forego paying its workers benefits including workers’ compensation or overtime pay.

Sponsored by Rep. Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville), the bill, HB 1978, has passed in the Senate and is headed to the House. Given the state legislature’s Republican majority and pro-business stance, it seems it could pass in the House as well.

According to the Nashville Post, Rep. Marsh argued most gig workers are part-time and don’t expect or need the protections given to full-time employees.

“We already have people who go out and do yard work on their own,” Rep. Marsh said. “If they get on a platform, it gives them access to more customers.”

In Georgia, similar legislation has been proposed.

HB 789 in the Georgia House would define gig workers as “marketplace contractors” and require “marketplace platforms” to treat them as independent contractors instead of employees, regardless of how the platforms treat the workers. The bill stipulates that a “marketplace contractor” enters into a contract with the platform to obtain customers seeking their services.

It goes on to define that the platform uses a “digital network to receive connections to customers to a marketplace contractor for the purpose of providing services to customers for compensation, and accepts service requests from customers only through such platform’s digital network and does not accept service requests in person at physical retail locations, by telephone, or by facsimile.”

Georgia Rep. Barry Fleming, (R-Harlem), one of the bill’s sponsors, did not immediately return emails and phone calls for comment by press time.

Similar legislation has also been introduced in Indiana, Kentucky, Utah, Florida, Iowa and Colorado.

The bills have raised the warning bell for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a national nonprofit advocacy group. Palak Shan, the organization’s director of social innovations, lobbied in Tennessee against the bill.

“…It’s just such a sorry excuse for a business model to make vulnerable workers more vulnerable just so you can tell your investors that one day you might be solvent,” Shah said, according to CNNMoney. “This legislation basically ensure that domestic workers online will never have protection.”