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Lack of worker protections in gig economy spawns lawsuits

Workers in Pennsylvania should be interested in the court cases developing on the West Coast concerning companies that depend on independently contracted labor. Such workers are not legally classified as employees. Therefore, their employers do not pay any Social Security taxes or provide workers' compensation insurance. Also at issue is the inability of such workers to legally unionize and negotiate collectively for better work terms.

Companies built upon the labor of independent contractors include ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. Two lawsuits against these companies have already emerged. The one against Uber has been granted a class-action status. In many instances, workers have complained that the flexible hours and earning potential touted by such companies have not been accurate.

At the city and state level, lawmakers have started to make attempts to regulate the expanding role that gig workers play in society. In Seattle, the city leadership passed a law granting drivers the right to organize regardless of their employment classification. A similar bill working its way through the legislature in another West Coast state seeks to empower all types of independent contractors with the right to negotiate collectively.

Among the benefits independent contractors might seek would be insurance for on-the-job injuries. Currently, most companies that directly hire people as employees must carry workers' compensation insurance. This system is meant to pay for medical care when people get hurt at work. Benefits, however, can be difficult to obtain, and a person who has been injured in a workplace accident may want to have the assistance of an attorney when preparing and filing the required claim.

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