On Demand Workers May Be Allowed to Unionize

On demand employees, also know as “gig workers,” may be able to enter in a collective bargaining agreement, according to a recent news feature from the Los Angeles Times.

typingThese gig workers – so named after musicians’ use of the term “gig,” referring to a scheduled performance – include Lyft and Uber drivers, who operate like on-demand taxi drivers. They’ve been having a lot of trouble based upon the fact that their employer wants to consider them independent contractors entitled to a lot less than statutory employees, because it is a more cost effective model for the company.   It should be noted the California Labor Commission has twice ruled that these drivers are employers and not employees and are entitled to things such as workers’ compensation.  

However, it should also be noted that these decisions do not have any precedential value, and each case is reviewed as a new and independent matter.  This does still worry employers, because it shows how courts may eventually end the process of misclassification and require them to be treated as employees.  This is not only a benefit for the employees, but it would also be a victory for any passengers or third parties who are injured in an accident.

As it stands now, the driver is responsible for his or her liability coverage plan, and this would be the total pot from which victims could recover.  If the driver was employee, then the company would be liable in most cases through what is known as respondeat superior.  This would mean the accident victim could recover form the employer’s General Commercial Liability (GCL) policy, which is most certainly a higher insurance policy that he driver would have.

The reason these employers try to claim they are not technically employers is by saying all they do is advertise drivers and allow the riders to find them.  Essentially, they argue that they are merely an app version of Craigslist and are not personally a party to the transaction.  However, as is obvious, and as courts are deciding, they are not simply an online classified provider.  These companies handle all transactions and require drivers to purchase certain types of cars in certain model years and control many other aspects of driver performance.

While it may take many more court cases to eventually get the law changed through judicial situations, a California assemblywoman is working to change this at a legislation level, which could be much faster than waiting for the courts to act.  This proposed law would allow groups of workers (10 or more) to join a union even if the employer still classifies them as independent contractors.

This will allow them to form what is known as collective bargaining agreement (CBA).  While you may only be familiar with the term CBA from the NFL and NHL, it will allow these workers to gain strength in numbers.  If one employee tries to ask for liability insurance, the company will not do it, but if all them through an agreement ask, it may be harder to turn down a reasonable request.

However, this can be an extremely complex issue, and you should speak with an experienced Orange County employment lawyer to assist you before signing any agreement that significantly affects your rights as a worker.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.

Additional Resources:

California bill would let gig workers organize for collective bargaining, March 15, 2016, LA Times

More Blog Entries:

Top 5 Areas the EEOC is Pursuing Litigation to Protect Workers, Jan. 15, 2016, Orange County gender discrimination attorney blog

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