The On-Demand Economy & State Labor Protections

State Legislatures and Agencies Can Better Protect On-Demand and Other Contingent Workers in Their Labor Laws

More and more, America’s workers are seeing their jobs deliver less and less of what they need to get by, in part because the companies they work for shift risks away from themselves and onto workers, while retaining profits for themselves.  In particular, in the sector referred to as the on-demand economy, many online and app-based companies seek and provide workers who drive, clean, deliver food, do odd jobs, care for children and elders, and perform tasks online—often for very little money, with no job security, and no labor protections at all. Their employers get away with this major workplace violation largely by classifying their workers as independent contractors—who are not, by traditional definitions, guaranteed the same protections as employees. Unfortunately, these kinds of practices are rapidly expanding: though the on-demand sector is still a small part of the economy overall, it has grown ten-fold in the last three years.

This guide is intended to assist agency officials and policymakers in ensuring that, no matter how companies choose to label their workforce, workers are protected by core labor standards. It is also intended to provide defensive antidotes to efforts by some transportation network companies (TNCs) and corporations in other sectors to convince lawmakers to exempt their businesses and their workers from state definitions of “employer” and “employee”—merely because the companies have the influence to obtain such a categorical exemption.


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