The gig economy and anti-discrimination laws

On Behalf of | Nov 2, 2018 | Workplace Discrimination |

Many workers act as independent contractors in New Jersey and across the country. This rise of the “gig economy” has led people to teach classes online, drive ridesharing cars and take up pet-sitting jobs. In fact, nearly one out of every seven jobs taken by Americans involves these types of contingent employment situations. However, these independent contractors may lack significant protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of race, age, gender or disability.

Despite the fact that millions of people work for temp agencies, as freelancers and through independent contracting, the laws against employment discrimination apply only to regular employees. According to a survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 14 percent of American workers said that they take some kinds of temporary assignments. This amounts to 21 million people across the country. At least half of those are classified as contractors and lose access to the protections that underlie anti-discrimination laws. However, some say that these figures could undercount the level of “gig-based” or contingent workers. One study claimed that 29 percent of Americans had some level of involvement with these positions.

Independent contractors are paid and taxed differently than employees. They are responsible for managing their own work and operate independently rather than at the direction of an employer. While many contractors operate as freelancers, some companies abuse the terminology for their advantage. These workers may be more properly classified as employees and get the attendant protections of anti-discrimination law.

Someone who has been subject to workplace discrimination may want to speak with an employment lawyer. Even independent contractors can speak with an attorney. Many companies are facing scrutiny for their excessive use of the contractor label for workers functioning essentially as employees. A lawyer can help a worker seek accountability and compensation for their damages as a result of unlawful discrimination.

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