US rescinds Trump-era rule to give gig workers more benefits
However, some companies say independent contractors enjoy the flexibility and freedom that come with not being an employee
Nandita BosePicture: 123RF/PONSULAK KUNSUBWashington — President Joe Biden’s labour department has rescinded a Trump-era rule that would have made it easier for US businesses to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
“By withdrawing the independent contractor rule, we will help preserve essential worker rights and stop the erosion of worker protections that would have occurred had the rule gone into effect,” labour secretary Marty Walsh said in a statement on Wednesday. “Too often, workers lose important wage and related protections when employers misclassify them as independent contractors.”
Shares of companies that employ gig labour, such as Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, immediately pared gains in pre-market trade. Uber shares traded down 0.02%, Lyft was down 0.75% and DoorDash fell 1.27% in early trade.Walsh said last week that a lot of US gig workers should be classified as employees who deserve work benefits. His comments signaled a shift in policy and hurt stocks of companies that employ gig labour. headtopics.com
Gig workers are independent contractors who perform on-demand services, including as drivers, delivering groceries or providing childcare — and are one-third more likely to be black or Latino in the US, according to an Edison Research poll.Walsh said that his department would have conversations in the coming months with companies that employ gig labour to make sure workers have access to consistent wages, sick leave, healthcare and “all the things an average employee in America can access”.
The rule by former president Donald Trump’s administration, finalised in early January before he left office on January 20, would have hampered workers’ ability to earn a minimum wage and overtime compensation — protections offered under the FLSA.It was supposed to take effect in March, but did not because it was being reviewed by the labour department. The withdrawal will be effective on Thursday.
An Uber spokesperson said last week that an overwhelming majority of app-based workers want to stay independent, because it allows them to work when, where and how they want with flexibility no traditional job can match.The FLSA includes provisions that require covered employers to pay employees at least the federal minimum wage for every hour they work and overtime compensation at not less than 1.5-times their regular rate of pay for every hour they work over 40 in a workweek. FLSA protections do not apply to independent contractors.
“The independent contractor rule was in tension with the FLSA’s text and purpose,” the labour department said. Read more: Business Day »
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