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Many of Florida’s Gig Workers Still Waiting for PUA Benefits

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — While gig workers make up 22 percent of Florida’s workforce, many have yet to receive federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits and have received no answers from state officials on when help might arrive.

What You Need To Know

  • Florida’s Unemployment System: Your Questions Answered
  • FLORIDA GOVERNMENT GUIDE: Contact Your State Lawmakers
  • More coronavirus stories

Fifty-seven days and more than 20,000 calls later, $5,250 that has yet to appear in the bank for Julia Shear’s husband.

It’s a numbers game that Shear said does not want to be a part of. 

“It took us 27.5 hours to apply for [my husband] the first time and it took 7.25 hours to apply the second time,” she said.

She, her husband, and her son are currently all unemployed. 

While she got her first batch of benefit  payments on May 13, her husband, a limousine driver for six years and worked until the day his company shut down for COVID-19 on March 17, has yet to receive a cent. 

“It shows he’s eligible but now a week and a half and no payment,” she said.  

Together, Shears and her husband have called the unemployment hotline a whopping 20,842 times (as of the moment I conducted this interview on May 13). 

Of those times, she says she’s only gotten through to someone about 13 times. 

​“So you’ve said that he’s eligible for these funds, it’s been a week and a half, you keep telling us to wait 72 hours. Where’s that money at?” Shear said.

 

As of May 12, the unemployment dashboard shows that only 28,054 PUA claimants have been paid. 

“They’re not paying that money, that PUA money, they’re just not paying people like they should,” Shear said.

“We were asked by our government, our elected officials, to stay home, stay safe, flatten the curve — we did all of those things and it feels like a punishment,” she went on. “It feels like you did everything we asked you to do and now we’re going to push you into homelessness and hunger.”

All they can do is wait for answer. Like scores of other Floridians, however, they simply can’t afford to wait. 

“Those are not stories of the American dream,” she said. “Those are stories of an American nightmare.”



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Seattle Mandates Temporary Gig Worker Premium Pay

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As we wrote about in more detail here, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has brought increased attention to the legal and practical distinctions between employees (who are entitled to various compensation and employment benefits under the law) and independent contractors (who generally are not).  The pandemic has also prompted lawmakers at the federal, state, and local level to explore further legislation designed to provide independent contractors with greater protections under the law.

The Seattle City Council has now passed two ordinances—the “Gig Worker Premium Pay Ordinance” and the “Gig Worker Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance”—that will temporarily impose heightened requirements on transportation network and food delivery network companies.

The Gig Worker Premium Pay Ordinance

The Gig Worker Premium Pay Ordinance went into effect at 8:30 p.m. on June 26, 2020.  According to the City Council, the ordinance is designed to “increas[e] [the] retention of gig workers who provide essential services on the frontlines of a global pandemic and who should be paid additional compensation for the hazards of working with significant exposure to an infectious disease.”

Under this ordinance, food delivery network companies are required to pay delivery drivers at least $2.50 in premium pay for each delivery they complete with a pick-up or drop-off location in Seattle.  If the order involves multiple pick-up or drop-off points, drivers are entitled to an additional $1.25 in premium pay for each additional pick-up or drop-off point in Seattle.

The ordinance requires food delivery network companies to remit premium pay at the same time at which they provide compensation for other components of the delivery, identify the specific orders that qualified for premium pay, and separately itemize premium pay when compensating drivers.

The ordinance also prohibits food delivery network companies from retaliating against drivers for exercising their rights under the law, and from: (i) reducing or modifying service areas in Seattle, (ii) reducing drivers’ compensation, (iii) limiting drivers’ earning capacity, including by restricting drivers’ access to online orders, and (iv) charging customers additional fees for grocery deliveries, if the ordinance is a “motivating factor” in the decision.

Finally, the ordinance requires food delivery network companies to provide drivers with written notice of their rights under the law.

Covered businesses are obligated to provide premium pay for the duration of the coronavirus civil emergency.  And covered businesses must maintain records documenting their compliance with the ordinance for three years.

Drivers are entitled to lodge a complaint with the Seattle Office of Labor Standards (“OLS”) or file a civil action in court, in order to enforce the ordinance.  Businesses that violate the ordinance will be subject to various penalties and fines, and payment of unpaid compensation owed under the law, liquidated damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

The Gig Worker Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance

Under the Gig Worker Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance, which will go into effect July 13, 2020, covered transportation network and food delivery network companies will be obligated to temporarily provide paid sick and safe time benefits to ride-share and food delivery drivers, notwithstanding the drivers’ independent contractor status.  More specifically, covered drivers will earn one day of paid leave for every 30 calendar days that they work in whole or in part in Seattle, dating back to October 1, 2019, or the commencement of their engagement (whichever is later), and continuing through 180 days after certain civil emergency orders relating to the coronavirus pandemic have been terminated.

Drivers will have the right to use paid sick and safe time benefits in 24-hour increments for various reasons, including, among others: (i) to accommodate their need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment, (ii) to care for a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, and (iii) when a covered business has reduced, suspended, or otherwise discontinued operations for any health or safety related reason.  For each day of leave, drivers will be entitled to their “average daily compensation” (which includes any bonuses, commissions, and tips) from their highest earning calendar month since October 1, 2019.

Covered businesses will also be required to provide drivers with written notice of their rights, and of the businesses’ relevant policies and procedures for meeting the requirements of the ordinance.  In addition, covered businesses will be prohibited from retaliating against drivers for exercising their rights under the law.  Covered business will also be required to maintain records documenting their compliance with the ordinance for three years.

The OLS will enforce the ordinance, and drivers will have the right to lodge a complaint with the OLS, or file a civil action in court, if they believe their rights under the ordinance have been violated.  Businesses that violate the ordinance will be subject to various penalties and fines, and payment of unpaid compensation owed under the law, liquidated damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

Takeaways

Although the requirements imposed by both Seattle ordinances are temporary, covered businesses will almost certainly need to make changes to their operations in the short-term.  Businesses that engage independent contractors should also bear in mind that state and local governments in other jurisdictions may ultimately adopt legislation with similar objectives (particularly if the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow).


©2020 Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. All rights reserved.
National Law Review, Volume X, Number 183

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Struggling gig workers – One News Page VIDEO

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ShakespeareGeek

Shakespeare Geek Sir Ian McKellen Launches Appeal to Support Struggling Theatre Workers With Theatrical Guild and The Good Exchange – https://t.co/nafKsjuCnk 8 minutes ago

AndyC7798

Andy Chasteen RT @IanMcKellen: Please Support Struggling Theatre Workers With Theatrical Guild and The Good Exchange https://t.co/1eqLriCdb8 11 minutes ago

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Alberta Find A Doctor Did you know PCN social workers can help if you’re struggling financially?
They can help you with benefits polici… https://t.co/4pOTQarNq9 15 minutes ago

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joe costanzo RT @abc7kimi: One of the big things I’m noticing: small businesses are allowed to open back up, but the workers are receiving $3200 per mo… 19 minutes ago

abc7kimi

Kimi Evans One of the big things I’m noticing: small businesses are allowed to open back up, but the workers are receiving $3… https://t.co/vNH2XQHOrk 20 minutes ago

tony_fromdabloc

Anthony Perez @thehill Meanwhile unemployment is at a record high, people are struggling with poverty, and his own Amazon workers… https://t.co/ZDQOOIVnDd 23 minutes ago



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Seattle Enacts Gig Worker Premium Pay Ordinance During COVID-19 Crisis – JD Supra

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