Flexibility in the On-Demand Economy

Companies in the on-demand economy often claim that workers choose to work with them because of the flexibility that comes with the job, and that these workers will happily sacrifice the benefits of employee status—minimum wage, overtime, protection from discrimination, the right to collectively bargain, and social benefits like unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and contributions to Social Security—in exchange for the freedom to make their own schedules. Many on-demand companies claim that it is impossible to both comply with baseline employment standards and make contributions to payroll taxes and still offer the highly coveted flexibility they say workers especially desire.

But many companies in the on-demand and overall economy do offer flexible schedules to workers whom they treat as employees, proving that flexibility and employee status are perfectly compatible. Moreover, much of the data on on-demand workers shows that workers choose these jobs out of necessity, not because of the flexibility they may offer. Finally, courts have also weighed in on the relevance of flexible hours to employee status and have found, in a variety of contexts, that workers with flexible schedules are employees under federal law.

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About the Author

Rebecca Smith

Director of Work Structures, National Employment Law Project