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The intersection of employee rights and the new economy

Companies like Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit and other short-term "gig" jobs are altering the job market. Work that was once considered safe, reliable middle-class jobs is being eroded by Internet companies. These companies started with the goal of filling a short-term need are now replacing those jobs that they meant to supplement. The changing atmosphere of work and the rights given to workers is an ongoing process. There is no way to definitively know what, if any, rights that the new economy will produce.

A new paper from the Hamilton Project, written by a former Deputy Secretary of Labor and an economist, reviewed these new jobs and put forth proposals on how to simultaneously increase and reduce employee rights. The point of this paper is to discuss what new rights these 21st century companies owe their employees.

Generally, your most important rights as an employee flow between you and your employer. Your employer must pay a minimum wage. Your employer cannot fire you based on your ethnicity or sex. Your employer cannot fire you for becoming disabled. These basic rules, and more, govern your relationship with your employer. However, these new companies are not always playing by these rules. You are interviewed, screened and hired just like any other employee but you lack the same protections. The employer-employee relationship is working to clarify what rights workers have in this new style of business.

This is an effervescent area of law. It is confusing to even the experts that write about it. If you work in one of these jobs and believe that your rights as an employee are being infringed in one way or another, then you may want to consult with an employment law attorney who can discuss your various legal rights and obligations. OSHA, minimum wages, equal pay and civil rights were all passed with the goal of ensuring fundamental rights for everyone. You don't necessarily have to sacrifice those hard-won rights because you work for a "tech" company.

Source: U.S. News, "Gig Economy Workers Deserve Better," Rebecca Smith, Dec. 9, 2015

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