The dividing line between an employee and a contractor has been a controversial one for people involved in the gig economy, especially rideshare drivers. As of July 1, 2017, drivers in Florida will find their status finally solved. Governor Rick Scott announced on April 24 that he will sign a bill into law that deems rideshare drivers to be contractors.
Whether drivers support the classification as contractors or not, the bill does remove a lot of the uncertainty surrounding their jobs, finally giving them a definite route to take if problems occur. It also lets the drivers know where they stand regarding insurance as the bill requires the companies they work with, known as transportation network companies or TNCs, to carry insurance that protects both the driver and the passenger.
Better Definition of Duties and Protections
While classifying the drivers as contractors may sound at first like they are being cut adrift to fend for themselves as freelancers, the law offers several protections. Not only do the drivers and companies have to put in writing that the drivers are contractors, but the companies can't prevent the drivers from working for other TNCs or working in any other field in any other position. The TNC also has to avoid requiring the drivers to be logged into the TNC's networks during specific times. Basically, the drivers just got a lot more freedom to control their own work schedules.
The law was badly needed because there was a great deal of confusion over the role of rideshare drivers in the gig economy. This is a fairly new concept in the world of freelancing, and many drivers felt they had to fulfill requirements that were more appropriate for regular employees. In fact, several lawsuits have sprung up contesting treatment of drivers, claiming that the drivers were really regular employees due benefits. The law makes these lawsuits unnecessary, and while that may be bad for those who filed them, it does clear the decks for a fresh start for everyone involved.
The law also makes state law paramount in determining driver status. Cities and counties can't pass their own laws that call the drivers employees.
Additional New Requirements
After the law takes effect in July, TNCs will have to enforce zero-tolerance policies regarding the use of drugs and alcohol by their drivers, and all drivers must undergo criminal background checks. Riders must get accurate information about fares as well as receive timely receipts. And finally, the law states that TNCs and drivers can't discriminate in hiring or accepting rides.
The addition of this law clears up a major point of confusion and makes the roles of the TNCs, drivers, and riders much clearer. It is possible that the law, or a variant of it, could be expanded to cover other gig-economy jobs, though at this time there are no laws pending. Still, Florida employers should keep their eyes open for upcoming changes.