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Shifting employment landscape drives calls for broader debate

Change is about the only constant thing in everyone's life. It tended to happen quite slowly in the past. Since the age of the Information Highway launched, however, the speed of change has been stepped up immensely.

One of the places it's being felt most intensely right now is in the realm of employment law, as was highlighted in a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle. According to that piece, the gig economy is in massive growth mode. More than 50 million Americans are taking advantage of opportunities supported by mobile technologies to develop work lives that don't rely on what many would consider the traditional employment model.

The problem many of these individuals and their supporting service companies are confronting, however, is that the law isn't adapting as fast as the employment environment is developing. What that has led to are disputes over employee rights, worker classifications and benefits.

Those issues are of such a hot-potato nature that they are being addressed in the courts of California and elsewhere in the country. And because of their sensitivity, there are some efforts being made to try expand the approach to the gig economy model in ways that will maintain the elements of independence and convenience that make it as appealing as it is to so many.

It is in this context that the Chronicle story reported on two initiatives that are now underway. One is looking to create a coalition of voices from across business, investment, labor and policy that will advance the cause of support for supplying portable benefits to independent contract workers. They say the time is right for creating this particular safety net because of employment evolution and the flexibility provided under the Affordable Care Act.

The second enterprise is called the Good Work Code. Its leaders say the goal is to provide a platform of eight values that gig economy entrepreneurs can follow to ensure that contractors are supported ways that are sustainable and fair to all sides.

What these efforts will yield is impossible to predict at this point. For the vast majority of workers, disputes still tend to stem from traditional employment situations. And experienced attorneys are in the best position to handle the legal challenges they face.