Worker safety in the gig economy

An increasing number of Minnesotans are earning income by working in the gig economy. While this term is used loosely to describe piecework that workers might do on the side by signing into apps, the work is widely varied across industries.

Gig work might include people who use ride-sharing apps to drive passengers as side jobs. It also might include people who do freelance work online through various freelancing sites. Some workers derive all of their income through gig work while others supplement their full-time jobs with gig jobs. Many of the companies that offer gig work classify the workers as independent contractors, which may lead the workers to shoulder higher risks.

Safety experts say that workers who are gig workers are unable to access workers' compensation benefits through their employers if they are injured on the job because of their job classifications as independent contractors. This might leave them unable to recover compensation if they suffer disabling injuries and are unable to return to work. Seattle, Washington recently reacted to this problem by passing an ordinance that would allow ride-share drivers to collectively bargain, but the ordinance is facing legal challenges.

Workplace safety laws are in place in order to offer protection to workers. If workers are injured while they are working, they might recover benefits through their employers' workers' compensation insurance. Gig workers may be left without the ability to recover workers' compensation benefits since they are often deemed to be independent contractors. Experienced personal injury attorneys may investigate whether or not their clients are misclassified as independent contractors. If they have been misclassified, the attorney might be able to help them to recover workers' compensation benefits through their employers. If the employers were negligent and the workers are not classified incorrectly, they may be able to file personal injury lawsuits since they are unable to access workers' compensation coverage.

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