National Employment Law Project Says Gig Economy Fuels Racial Inequality

The National Employment Law Project is calling out the so-called gig economy, app-based companies such as Uber, for contributing to racial inequality in our economy.  Nayantara Mehta of NELP says a lot of the problems facing these workers stems from misclassifying them as independent contractors:

“What a lot of these gig companies are doing is saying ‘we’re going to dictate a lot of your working life and working conditions, but we’re gonna call you an independent contractor.’  All of the things that most of us associate with the protections of having a job: that we get paid a minimum wage, or are protected from discrimination, we are able to collectively organize as workers…all of these things happen if you are classified as an employee.”

Mehta notes that independent contractors are exempt from protections of the Civil Rights act.  In addition to direct discrimination, Mehta notes biases in the customer rating systems that companies such as Uber use to rate their workers:

Nayantara Mehta: “Whether they are explicitly biased or they have the invisible-but-pervasive biases that we know exist in our society, they apply those drivers when they they are rating their drivers.  Drivers of color are therefore more likely to receive lower ratings.  Our biggest concerns with the gig economy reflect our concerns with the economy in general, which is that workers are exploited and the most vulnerable workers, often workers of color and immigrant workers and low-paid workers are especially vulnerable.  It’s really important for us to hold these companies accountable to make sure that these companies don’t get away with replicating the inequalities and discrimination that we see too.”



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