Gig Workers And Workplace Injuries
America is seeing a rise in what some are now calling “the gig economy.” This means that fewer people are working as full-time employees or even part-time employees and more are getting by on gigs, short-term contracts and work-for-hire commissions that pay out for individual jobs and let both the employer and the contractor start and stop their relationship at a moment’s notice.
For instance, last year Florida passed a law regulating ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. For the drivers, ridesharing works by telling the company’s app that you’re available to drive people around. You then get paid per ride based on the length of the drive and the size of the rider’s tip. Since a driver can switch off the app at any time, switch to a competitor’s app, or work full-time in any industry, ridesharing companies classify drivers as independent contractors.
The Federal Limits
The problem with this approach is that not all drivers treat ridesharing as a part-time job. For some drivers it’s their sole income, and they spend a lot of their money on keeping their cars maintained, clean, and friendly. Some even buy ridesharing-friendly cars through company programs. And if these drivers don’t take advantage of their ability to work elsewhere, there’s not much difference between them and a full-time employee.
Florida’s new state law gives ridesharing companies some very easy standards to meet to classify their drivers as independent contractors, but state law doesn’t trump federal labor regulations, and in particular the Federal Labor Standards Act. This is the law that spells out how to apply the minimum wage and overtime pay, and Uber drivers in Pennsylvania are using it to claim they deserve a minimum wage when they’re on call and not just when they’re driving.
Where Personal Injuries And Gig Workers Meet
Traditional employees who work for companies both big and small can receive workers’ compensation if they suffer a workplace injury. Workers’ comp is a no-fault insurance that always pays out and avoids time-consuming lawsuits and settlement negotiations.
However, while workers’ comp extends to any injury even if it takes place on the road and in your private vehicle so long as you’re on your employer’s clock, it doesn’t apply to independent contractors. So if an Uber driver gets hit by another vehicle or attacked by a crazy passenger, the only way he or she can get compensation for injuries is by settling with or suing the responsible person. This quickly becomes a problem when the other driver has no insurance or the passenger becomes untraceable.
That’s why many ridesharing drivers are suing their employers for misclassification. By becoming classified as employees, a driver would become entitled to workers’ compensation, among other benefits. But that won’t work for Florida drivers thanks to the new law: workers’ comp is a state regulation, and under state law ridesharing companies can easily prove that their drivers are contractors. They might get on-call and overtime pay thanks to the federal law, but they won’t get workers’ comp coverage.
As a result, injured ridesharing drivers in Florida need to rely on the state’s personal injury laws instead. And if your injury happens in southwest, Florida, you can contact the offices of Shapiro, Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez, and Walsh for a free case review and a lawyer who can take your case to court and beyond if that’s what you need to get fair compensation.