Call Uber and Lyft drivers what they are: employees

By David Weil, 7.5.19.
Originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times as an Op-Ed piece.

Uber and Lyft are mounting a full court press to convince policymakers in California that their drivers should be classified as independent contractors and not employees. Uber’s chief executive and Lyft’s founders claim that the designation is critical for the companies. They recently argued “we can make independent work better if we update century-old employment laws.” In other words, don’t change our business model, just change the law.

As the former head of the federal agency that enforces some of those laws (which are nowhere near a century old), I understand the complexity of this issue. There are certainly companies whose workers operate in the gray area between employees and contractors. In those cases, workers in some ways act like employees (e.g. because their activities are supervised in part by the company and they are closely integrated into the company’s operations), but in other ways they act like contractors (e.g. because they determine the way they deliver that service, set their prices and face entrepreneurial risk).

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David Weil is Dean and Professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management. He served as US Wage and Hour Administrator at the Department of Labor during the last three years of the Obama administration. He is a leading international expert on workplace and labor market policy and was the Peter and Deborah Wexler Professor of Management at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business before coming to Brandeis. The materials on this site arise from analysis contained in The Fissured Workplace and a growing body of research regarding the fundamental restructuring of employment and its impacts on workers and businesses. It also discusses approaches to dealing with the fissured workplace developed during the Obama administration as well as new ideas and efforts being discussed and undertaken today. 


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