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Cuomo’s Gig Economy Task Force: Hope For The Self Employed

Expansion of rideshare services opportunity for New York workers' rights

Did you know your local economy resides right at your fingertips? We live in an age of convenience, where our smartphones provide an active social link between ourselves and a multitude of resources. Need to shop? Want to talk to a friend across the world? This can all be done with the touch of a button on a glowing screen. Even the days of calling a cab company are becoming a thing of the past. Now, you can summon a personal ride with a pre-calculated fare from your phone.

With many still recovering from the recent recession, people have taken advantage of our "gig economy" to make ends meet, especially if they have lost their job. This type of economy is exactly what it sounds like, a way to obtain jobs and garner income from short term "gigs" such as driving for rideshare companies, taking on nanny and housecleaning jobs, even renting out living spaces. It is a labor market characterized by short term or freelance jobs as opposed to permanent positions, offering the ability to make one's own flexible schedule and work in their chosen field.

In New York, the rate of self-employed people in the workforce hovers at 9.7 percent, as opposed to the 6.7 percent employed in the manufacturing sector. With a sizable amount of participants, this mini-economy has the prospect of expanding into a state-wide market.

But can they provide for themselves and their families if they cannot work? A freelance roof repairman can easily fall and injure himself on the job. A housekeeper could slip while cleaning, resulting in a fall down the stairs that leaves them unable to work for an undetermined amount of time. Their status as "independent contractors" doesn't entitle them to paid sick days, or health care coverage. Without adequate, or any, health insurance, workers find themselves in trouble.

Governor Cuomo, a strong advocate for the expansion of the gig economy, has taken this to the attention of New York Legislation. Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft are pushing for expansion outside of the city, and further into upstate. This would give more opportunities for people to join the self-employed workforce, but what about their health?

Worker's compensation is something independent contractors are denied. In 2016, there were a total of 59 incidents resulting in serious injuries to temp workers, including 14 fatalities, according to statistics compiled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Independent workers are a vital part of the American workforce, and Governor Cuomo's initiative for proper compensation includes a task force that would oversee statewide legislation to both expand the New York gig economy, and claims that raising rideshare prices by "pennies" would be a worthwhile effort towards liability coverage, which companies currently say is "too expensive".

Is the safety of workers too pricey? Currently, that's the excuse many companies use when choosing to not provide such benefits. With the aid of new legislation, self-employment will mean safer employment.

Worker's compensation is something everyone in our workforce should be entitled to receive. This initiative aims to level the playing field for future Uber and Lyft drivers, and promote overall benefits for New York's growing gig economy.

A job is a job, whether the work comes from a permanent position behind an office desk or a flexible gig behind the wheel of a car. The attorneys at Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP are strong advocates for equal protection of equal work. Contact our law firm to learn more about how we can help you. Schedule a free case evaluation. We can understand worker's rights in New York State and help you deal with your workplace-related accident issues. The workers of New York matter, and we'll fight for them.

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