• Chelsea Rustrum

Are Sharing Economy ‘Gig Workers,’ Actually Employees?

Updated: Feb 21

Since the sharing economy went into mainstream Unicorn America, I’ve been questioning the validity of workers who are incentivized to work certain hours (rather than being directly told), earn less than minimum wage in many cases, and must agree to work under the conditions set by the platform (which claims that it’s not liable for it’s workers, btw).

The Uber’s of the world put into question how to tell who a worker is, decipher when they become an employee, and how to tell the difference. I’ve always held strong that there should be a third delineation of workers, not employees, nor independent contractors, but workers of the gig economy who should have worker protections in between that of an employee and a contractor.

Recently, the city of London revoked the right for Uber to operate. Actually, they just didn’t renew their license, which officially ends on September 30th.

TfL said last week Uber was not a “fit and proper” private car-hire operator and cited four areas of concern, including its approach to reporting criminal offenses and carrying out background checks on drivers.”


Well, there was a sexual assault case reported to Uber, which was not reported to the police. The driver then went on to keep driving and assaulted other passengers. Yikes!

On the other side of their apology, Uber started a petition, “which criticizes the move, has received the support of more than 750,000 people. In it, the company accused Transport for London of wanting to “restrict consumer choice” and making a decision that would affect the lives of hard-working drivers.”

While this is not a case of a city restricting Uber for operating illegally by hiring what should be employees as operators, this does tug at the very same issue. Who is liable for what, and when?

And that issue is up for grabs too. Uber already lost a case in Britain for which there will be an appeal for this Wednesday, regarding drivers employment status. In October, a judge decided that Uber drivers are in fact employees.

“If upheld, the judgment would drastically change the dynamics of the so-called gig economy in Britain, forcing companies like Uber to provide workers with the payment, protections and benefits to which full employees are entitled, rather than treating them as contractors.”

And, if you ask me… this kind of landslide decision would also impact other municipalities decision making process. I can see this leading to a domino effect in the gig economy, whereby all marketplaces are more carefully scrutinized as to whether they are hiring people or enabling independent workers.

Regardless, we should all think about how we can setup companies and marketplaces that feed themselves, like an ecosystem would. I’m very interested in companies that attempt to share value inside their respective organizations and do so through structural, cultural, and profit based models, which keep everyone in the loop of ownership and protection.

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