The gig economy is growing in California and across the U.S. with more and more people engaging in short-term projects for firms, employment agencies, and digital platforms. App-based work is especially on the rise. In fact, the Pew Research Center published a study in 2016 showing that 8 percent of American adults earned income from online gig work in 2015 with 29 percent saying the money was essential to their day-to-day living.
This makes the health and safety risks of gig-economy work all the more troubling. For example, transportation network workers and bicycle messengers have high injury and fatality rates. Many companies consider gig workers to be independent contractors. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, these kinds of workers are liable for their own safety and health. Therefore, independent contractors do not receive workers' compensation or a minimum wage.
As a result, many people are pushing for gig workers to be recognized as true employees. In 2015, the Seattle City Council put an ordinance into place allowing independent contractors to collectively bargain with their companies. By negotiating a contract, workers could succeed in obtaining workers' compensation and earning a wage that doesn't encourage them to overwork themselves to subsist. This way, workers can get more rest and cut down on the risk of having accidents. The possibility of unionization could cause businesses to improve working conditions.
Gig workers that do have access to workers' compensation benefits can file for them when they're injured on the job. All they have to do is show that the accident took place while they were working. However, one downside is the cap that limits the amount of compensation. If the accident was clearly the result of employer negligence, the victim could file an injury claim. A lawyer can help by estimating a settlement and calculating lost income despite the lack of an hourly wage.