Department of Labor Proposes New Rule Protecting the Right To Be a Gig Worker
A proposed new rule from the Department of Labor will protect the flexibility and freedom enjoyed by gig workers and independent contractors, but it likely won’t settle the debate over how those workers should be classified.
The Labor Department’s new proposed rule, issued on September 22, is a reaction to California’s recent legislation in the other direction. Assembly Bill (A.B.) 5, a California labor law passed in 2019, imposed a three-part “ABC” test to determine if someone is an employee or an independent contractor. Essentially, unless someone can prove that they are free to not work, that they perform work outside of the course of their employers’ usual business, and that they usually work in an independent business in the same field as whomever hired them, they count as an employee.
This was a devastating blow to a whole variety of industries, from delivery and ridesharing services to journalism, photography, and even opera. Uber and Lyft nearly pulled out of California entirely and Vox Media severed ties with hundreds of freelance journalists.
The new rule “is definitely a reaction” to the California law, says Sean Higgins, a research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The Labor Department’s proposal “goes back to the nuts and bolts of the federal definitio
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