- House Rep. Eleanor Norton Holmes (D-DC) will introduce a bill in Congress that would extend the anti-discrimination protections of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to independent contractors, freelancers and other gig workers, according to a statement.
- Separately, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi joined David Rolf, president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 775, and Nick Hanauer, workers' rights advocate and Seattle investor, in calling for Washington state to develop a "portable benefits system" that would give gig workers coverage similar to that of full-time employees and help to sustain gig workers between jobs.
- Khosrowshahi says a benefits system is preferable to employers directly offering gig workers coverage because of legal complications. Nortan, in her statement, says Title VII was written before the gig economy emerged and therefore a change in the law is necessary.
A group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers have long agreed that decades-old labor statutes need to be brought up to the 21st century to accommodate a fast-growing gig economy. Gig workers are expected to surpass the traditional labor force in size no sooner than 2027, according to one estimate.
A Randstad Sourceright study shows that the majority of employers expect to transform up to a third of their full-time permanent jobs into contingent positions, and a growing number of employees are becoming open to interim work, according to a 2017 ManpowerGroup study. Even the new tax code gives advantages to contract workers, some of whom operate solo and register as a limited liability company (LLC).
Gig workers are generally thought of as moderate- to low-wage earners, but a fair number are highly skilled, well-educated and able to command top pay. Since employers are unlikely to offer benefits to contingent workers, a portable benefits system administered by state governments may be a less costly option. The purpose of hiring contract workers is to keep costs low and adjust staffing levels as needed.
The courts haven't resolved the "employee vs. independent contractor" classification argument to the benefit of any one side. But gig workers, like Uber's, who have fought the company over benefits in court, might be less likely to take the legal route to resolution if policy changes would guarantee them the benefits and wage and anti-discrimination protections for which many have been asking.