Does working with a gig economy firm insulate you from co-employment?

social_connectionsHint: In many cases co-employment exists instantly, simply as a matter of legal circumstance. And this applies even when your contingent provider operates entirely in the cloud.

“Many on-demand companies or gig firms have publicized themselves as sort of outside of what we would call the traditional employee framework,” says Denis S. Kenny, principal, Scherer Smith & Kenny LLP. “They claim that the firm is just an online presence that is joining a client as a provider of services and has no obligation as an employer.”

But simply declaring something to be true, doesn’t make it so.

The world of work is allowing people more options for how they work.  A better work-life balance, new careers, doing what you love, et al., are all possible in the gig economy. And there is a great societal business case for having a different set of rules for the gig economy to spur these improvements along. Technological changes are making it more and more possible every month.  Current rules are sometimes a hindrance.

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“There has been an ideological fight over how to classify workers playing out in courts and government agencies for years. People are paying attention – often for the first time – because this fight has been playing out in the media over the gig economy.  People react viscerally to the attempts to shut down the gig economy because people like it and can see that it’s good for a majority of people,” says Eric Rumbaugh, partner, Michael, Best and Friedrich LLP. Nonetheless, for the moment at least, hindrance or not, the same rules apply to the gig economy that applied to an industrial setting 70 years ago.

So, for gig buyers, there is no difference in the analysis that you have to go through if you procure talent via a traditional staffing firm, or if the worker is an independent contractor, or if you never even see the worker because they work via the cloud remotely from home.  Regardless, you as a client may very well be responsible and liable on a co-employment basis.

In this, and every other aspect of the legal environment around the gig economy, your best defence is to stay informed.  How do you do that?

Get a grasp on these rules and more at my 10:45 am session at the Collaboration in the Gig Economy, Thursday, Sept. 22 in Las Vegas. Kenny and Rumbaugh are joined by SIA legal expert Fiona Coombe addressing co-employment myths.

Hear’s what Coombe has to say about co-employment abroad in this video.

Subadhra Sriram

Subadhra Sriram
Subadhra Sriram is Staffing Industry Analysts' editor and publisher, media products. She can be reached at SSriram (at) staffingindustry (dot) com.

Subadhra Sriram

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