The Gig Economy is F***ing with You

We’re here to help

And we don’t need no stinkin’ badges

I’ve heard from more than one woman, particularly working mothers, that they’re getting the shaft by accepting standard “remote working” arrangements as low paid independent contractor work.

It sounds good because - for whatever set of no good reasons - mothers tend to feel a little sheepish about needing flexible hours even when they are on call and required to be working a standard 40-hour week.

I’ve been told by several women - and, frankly, by recent revelations in Silicon Valley - that they’re making 50% less than men and women classified as employees doing the identical work they’re doing with the identical degree of control over the manner in which they produce that work.

I can smell injustice 1,000 miles away

I’m not a lawyer anymore, but I can read. And after 25 years of legal practice and ten years helping lawyers settle litigated disputes, I can smell injustice happening a 1,000 miles away.

You've got this sweet deal because you're a working mother and telecommuting is valuable to you. So valuable that you figure any compensation approaching 6-figures is sweet.

You're hired as an "independent contractor" as are all your co-workers. Your boss controls your hours, the nature of your work, and how you do it. If you were a consultant, you'd be making more money than in-house employees, many of whom also work remotely.

But you're not the consultant. Your boss is. And he is using what economists of the gig economy call “dead capital.”

Take Uber (please)

Uber uses its employees’ capital (their cars and their maintenance and insurance, cell phones and the like) for its own profit. In the “old economy,” i.e., taxi cabs, the entrepreneur had to invest a substantial sum of money (capital) to start a ride-sharing business. He had to buy cars, not to mention a taxi medallion.

The government rewards those who invest capital with lower tax rates because it wants to reward people who put money into the company at their own risk. But the capital risk for Uber is the driver’s risk, not Uber’s. So now Uber gets the meat and the gravy. The chocolate truffle layer cake and a Lamborghini too. The drivers provide the actual physical engines of Uber’s business without the profitable upside or the tax advantages.

Last year, Uber had revenues of $11.27 billion while the average Uber driver earned $8.80 to $11/hour after accounting for driving expenses.

If you are working “from home” (a phrase that should be retired in favor of “telecommuting which is gender-neutral), and are doing work at the direction of your “boss” you are more than likely an employee entitled to employment benefits and pay within the same employee pay bands for the work you are doing remotely instead of “on campus.”

We’ll be exploring this issue - and the ways to negotiate your way into employee status - for the next few blog posts.

Please leave comments - you can do so anonymously - to help us get the facts on the current firestorm burning in the Silicon Valley.

Laws, as they say, vary from state to state. But we’re not about enforcing laws here. We’re negotiating solutions to problems. That’s way less expensive, time-consuming, emotionally brutal and ineffective as litigation. Trust me. I labored in adversarial fields for 35 years.

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