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Gig economy worker protection bills come to the fore in Albany | News



ALBANY — With more and more New Yorkers working in the “gig economy,” state lawmakers during the upcoming legislative session will be jockeying to offer bills that will give these workers, who include Uber and Lyft drivers, benefits like unemployment and workers compensation insurance as well as minimum wage protections.

And it could facilitate their creating or joining existing unions.

The issue is shaping up as a classic business versus labor debate, although lawmakers say they will go slowly in order to try and dodge legal challenges and harming fields where freelancing has long been the norm.

“As a longtime labor leader, I’m excited to see this burst of interest in New York State for legislation that extends additional rights to workers who are misclassified as independent contractors,” New York City Democratic Sen. Robert Jackson said.

Jackson and a fellow Democrat, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick of New York City, are sponsors of a bill that would reclassify gig workers to get them benefits.

Ride-sharing firms see it differently.

Lyft points out that most of their drivers in New York are part-time with 86 percent working an average of 20 hours a week. And they say their drivers overwhelmingly support a flexible schedule that lets them choose their own hours.

The Jackson/Glick bill is one of several measures that have come up over the past year. At the end of the last session, New York City Democratic Senator Diane Savino and Assemblyman Marcus Crespo offered a similar bill, although that’s been taken back for more work.

Labor groups are squarely behind the concept but haven’t settled on a specific bill yet.

”Sen. Jackson’s proposal is modeled after California’s bill and while we are generally supportive of that direction, the needs of the labor movement here in New York State are slightly different. The New York State AFL-CIO is not committing to supporting a specific bill at this time, and we are working with our affiliates and many other groups to develop a New York-specific bill,” AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said in an email.

California was the first state to pass a gig economy law. It was signed in September and will take effect in January.

The law is based on the idea that an independent contractor should be free of day-to-day control by an employer; and should do work outside the usual purview of an employer. An example would be a solo plumber who is fixing a sink at a restaurant — the plumber comes only as needed and the restaurant is in the food, not plumbing, business.

To be truly independent, such workers should also be in fields or trades that have traditionally been occupied by solo practitioners either in the trades, or as professionals like lawyers or doctors.

The California bill has already sparked a legal challenge from the state trucking association that contends it could keep independent truck drivers from working.

And it has gotten pushback from freelance writers. Moreover, their counterparts in New York say they are worried that they could be harmed if the law isn’t carefully crafted.

“It showed a massive ignorance on the politicians’ part, on what people are doing for freelance work,” Halley Bondy, a New York City freelance writer, said of the California law.

Specifically, it set a threshold of 35 pieces per year for a given outlet, after which freelancers would be classified as employees. That’s prompted fears that publishers, either online or on paper, will avoid hiring California-based writers.

Bondy noted that she often reaches that threshold with some of the short pieces she produces for websites.

“A lot of working mothers would be affected by this,” said Bondy.

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Santa Fe’s gig economy evolves | Business




Walmart has a new delivery service that it just initiated in Santa Fe: DoorDash. We tried it out and it was relatively quick, but this could be because it is a new service.

You can get anything you order within a five-hour time frame, or if you spend an extra $10, you can get it delivered within two hours.

But this also means Walmart’s pickup service, which was running well before the coronavirus pandemic, may get slower with fewer pickup parking slots.

The new delivery service also means more job openings. Speaking of jobs, I’ve seen a flood of new ads by Lyft looking for drivers in this area.

Lyft drivers hopped onto Instacart when the virus started, but I have noticed a slight increase in Lyft and Uber drivers operating again since we businesses began reopening.

I spoke to several of my friends in the tattoo community, and they are reporting their businesses are booming, with all of them booked solid through August.

They have had to make a few changes, like limiting customers entering their establishments to just the customer and the tattoo artist. Before, people getting tattooed were allowed to bring in a posse of friends for emotional support.

I have been trying out several of the restaurant patios around town, and those businesses seem to be handling the change well. Even before dine-in options were shut down last week, you wouldn’t see me inside a bar or restaurant if they didn’t have an outdoor eating option. When I enter any enclosed space, I always wear a mask and disinfect my hands before entering and upon leaving with my order.

This has been a major change because I almost lived in restaurants for most of my meals for the past 30 years, especially for live events. We don’t know when those will resume without many venues doing major overhauls of their businesses.

Another fairly new development is the switch from a cash-based system to card and digital-pay services. With a shortage of coins and cash nationwide because of the pandemic, most of my purchases are now done with cards and online ordering.

Finally, I also run the Facebook group “2020 Santa Fe Grocery & Restaurant Pandemic Updates,” and several people have asked me about tipping. While cash tips are great, several of my Instacart customers tip with things like bottled water or coffee, masks, gloves, granola bars and hand sanitizer. I have spoken to other people in the gig jobs system and we love these nontraditional tips as well.

Be safe and wear your mask correctly.

Sam Haozous is a Santa Fe gig worker working as a contractor for Instacart, TurnKey Vacation Rentals and Lyft, and he is administrator for the 2020 Santa Fe Grocery & Restaurant Pandemic Updates Facebook group.

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California Labor Commissioner Sues Gig Car Wash for Misclassifying Workers




The Labor Commissioner’s Office has filed a lawsuit against a gig-economy car wash company in Southern California for violating labor laws by misclassifying employees as independent contractors.

Mobile Wash Inc. of Bellflower misclassified at least 100 workers, harming both the workers and law-abiding businesses in the car washing industry, the lawsuit says.

This is the first lawsuit filed by the Labor Commissioner’s Office to enforce Assembly Bill 5, the 2019 law that requires the application of the “ABC test” to determine if workers in California are employees or independent contractors. Under the ABC test, a worker is considered an employee unless they are free from control from the hiring entity, perform work outside of the hiring entity’s usual business, and engage in an accepted independent trade or occupation.

“Willful misclassification of workers harms not only workers but law-abiding employers and the public,” California Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower said in a statement. “Under the ABC test, these workers are clearly employees and were entitled to basic labor protections. My office is committed to combatting this unlawful practice as a business model.”

Mobile Wash uses a phone app to offer car washing and detailing services to customers throughout Southern California and a few locations in Northern California.

The company requires its workers to use their own cars and buy their own uniforms, insurance, cleaning equipment, supplies and gas. Mobile Wash does not reimburse the workers for these business expenses or travel time in violation of the requirement to pay for all hours worked at no less than the minimum wage. It also unlawfully charges workers a $2 “transaction fee” for every tip left on a credit card, according to the suit.

An analysis by the Labor Commissioner’s Office found that a Mobile Wash employee working for 10 hours per day, six days a week is entitled to $1,521 per week for unpaid wages including minimum wage and overtime violation, liquidated damages, rest period violations, reimbursements of business expenses and recovery of stolen tips, and other violations including but not limited to failure to provide paid sick leave. Mobile Wash had over 100 car washers at any given time.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, asks the court to order Mobile Wash to stop misclassifying its employees and to halt its operations using employee labor until it meets California’s car wash registration and bond requirements, as it has never been licensed with the Labor Commissioner’s Office.

The suit also seeks the recovery of unpaid wages, penalties and interest on behalf of workers going back to April of 2017 as well as civil penalties and any costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred by the Labor Commissioner’s Office.


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The Gig Economy and the case of Split Identities




The gig economy is exploding these days, especially in the wake of the global virus outbreak. According to the Bureau of Labor projections, the portion of gig economy workers will increase
to 43%
 in 2020. Among millennials, 40% have identified as participating in the gig economy.

Gig economy means transitory jobs. Rideshare drivers, work-from-home graphic designers, temporary customer service agents.  While most are part-time jobs, they are quite stable while they last. In times of economic crisis, some gig economy jobs may disappear
altogether, and some – such as delivery services in the current crisis – see a huge uplift in demand.

The surge in a freelancer economy has left many organizations that provide these services struggling with a new phenomenon: their freelancers are sharing their digital account with someone else. Why is this happening now more than ever? Due to the current
economic climate, people are anxious to earn more income. Their digital identity is suddenly quite valuable as they have been verified and vetted and allowed to engage in whatever service the gig economy company is allowing them to do. But as 24/7 work is
impossible, the notion of sharing their account with family, friends or other interested parties to continue generating income in an economic downturn is appealing, and a very real phenomenon happening today.

This makes a lot of sense from an individual perspective. These are difficult times, and the extra income shouldn’t be anybody’s business. However, taken from the larger perspective of society, this creates a major trust and safety issue. Think about your
favorite ridesharing app: You order a ride, step into the car, and find a completely different driver behind the wheel.

Or think about a call center service that operates on behalf of Fortune 500 companies. Lockdowns mean that most customer service agents are now working from home. Who can say whether an agent who punched in 12 hours per day is really working two shifts,
or just shared her account with a friend?  A friend who is not properly trained, has not signed an NDA, and not authorized to have access to your private data?

Or consider a high-ranking web developer who provides online services as a freelancer, earning top dollar for projects. As a way to generate additional income, he “rents” his identity to unvetted freelancers so they can enjoy access to top paying jobs, and
he gets a commission in exchange. You’re paying premium dollars for work that, in fact, isn’t done by the top ranked freelancer at all.

Trust is a key component in work-from-home environments, and when identity controls are broken, you can trust no one.

When digital accounts are misused and shared, there are far reaching implications. Lack of accountability. Lack of attribution. Impact on reputation when foul play is discovered. And, quite often, trust and safety concerns.

Devices Can’t Be Trusted

The verdict on passwords as a way to authenticate a digital identity has been decided ages ago: absolutely untrustworthy. Which is why in the last two decades, online and mobile applications found a great way to handle digital identities: the idea of the
Trusted Device. The premise of “something you have” became synonymous with digital identity. If you come from a device that has been seen before in your account, it must be you. Furthermore, once you verify your device via a one-time passcode, it becomes a
trusted device. A token of your identity. As long as you log in from your “trusted” device, it’s got to be you.

The reality is that this is no longer true.  Quite far from it, actually. Cybercriminals have found so many ways to bypass device checks that it is scary to even list all of them here. And that’s only half of the problem: People now use multiple devices
with the average household owning 11 connected devices. The fact you come from a new device does not
mean it’s not you.

So traditional ‘what you know’ and ‘what you have’ are not really reliable measures to help gig economy companies control their identities. How about biometrics?

Selfies and Fingerprints to the Rescue?

Selfies and fingerprints are becoming mainstream authenticators. But when you think about it, if your device recognizes you based on a fingerprint or face recognition, it’s basically proof that the device knows you, but not proof that you are who you claim
you are. Unless the face image or fingerprint are matched against a central database or a separate document that can be independently validated, all they really mean is that the device recognizes the person who has set it up.

Moreover, fingerprint and face biometrics are even less effective in addressing the gig economy identity split problem because you can easily add more fingerprints to your iPhone or Android device – after all, they were originally designed as a convenience
factor. So if you want your iPhone to be unlocked by your spouse and kids, knock yourself out. It’s wide open. The same goes for face recognition – you can add a second face that your device would recognize as legit, which is especially useful nowadays when
people walk around with face masks. So no, if someone is willingly sharing their account with a friend or family member in order to boost their freelancer profits, device-based biometrics are the least of their problems.

Clandestine Biometrics

What if the biometric analysis is done behind the scenes, though?

Several types of passive biometrics have been developed and perfected over the course of the last few years. In a call center environment, it is now possible to continuously record and match the agent’s voice against their historic profile. If an anomaly
is found, it can be investigated.

In web and mobile applications, behavioral biometrics is the new queen. Behavioral biometrics silently monitors the user interaction – mouse motions, typing patterns, cognitive choices and navigational preferences. Behavioral biometrics is not designed to
replace a password; in fact, it’s actually interesting to see how one types their password. But it does provide continuous monitoring and can point to anomalies in user behavior. It’s also less intrusive than matching fingerprints and faces, because those
can actually trace a person and – if stored in a central reposiroty – can be compromised and traded, while behavioral biometrics are more statistical in nature and used to verify that the behavior in the account matches past behaviors and no foul play is spotted;
it was never designed as a way to trace a specific individual and can’t be used as an identifier.

Account sharing is one of the things behavioral biometrics can highlight. Banks already found out it’s the only way to really know about, say, users of corporate online banking services who share their credentials with coworkers. Which, from a bank’s perspective,
creates a serious breach of confidence as their actions cannot be attributed to a single, personally accountable identity.

Back to the gig economy. So what’s wrong with someone trying to make a few extra bucks by sharing their work from home account with friends and family? For the worker, it is seemingly harmless and not done with bad intentions. However, for the organizations
that operate gig services this is an opening to incredible risk. When a digital identity is split, they lose all means of control. There is no way to really know who is providing the service, whether they have been vetted, or maybe even disqualified for some
reason and came back under a different identity of someone who was willing to share the account with them.

Identity is extremely important, and splitting it through account sharing creates significant risk. It’s time for gig economy businesses to re-think digital identity and models for building trust and safety.


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