US gig worker rule proposed, narrowing employee definition

The issue of which workers in our economy have rights to many benefits and protections — like employer health insurance or unemployment benefits — has become critical during the pandemic. And it often comes down to how that worker is classified: as an employee or an independent contractor.

This week the Labor Department proposed a new rule that would make it easier for companies to designate workers, including gig workers, as independent contractors who are ineligible for many protections.

The move comes in response to several state laws, like California’s AB5, which have made it harder to classify workers as independent contractors.

In California, the debate has mostly centered on gig workers, like drivers for ride-hailing services. Most of them would be reclassified as employees under state law. 

But the new federal rule could set up competing legal criteria for how worker classification should be decided. And that could cause

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