[USA - New York] Concerns over reclassification of contract employees

New York - Governor Andrew Cuomo has spoken about “protecting” New Yorkers being employed as independent contractors, New York Post questions what motivates the change and suggests he looks more closely at California before following their lead.

The governor recently said, “More people should be considered employees because what has been happening is companies have been going out of their way to hire independent contractors to get out” of offering them benefits.”

The aim of California’s new law is to pressure companies like Lyft, Uber and Postmates to classify workers as employees rather than independent contractors. Yet the main force driving the change to the law is organised labour because such arrangements make unionizing a challenge.

Advocates for reclassification say the intention is to make companies give workers benefits like health insurance and to put a stop to exemptions from overtime and minimum-wage laws. But every independent contractor knows the terms before they start work. They choose to be independent because of the other benefits such flexibility brings, like the opportunity to control their own work schedules and to work for multiple “bosses”.

The California law is reportedly already a concern for workers in many sectors, who are happy with things as they stand. Travel agents are worried about the threat to their livelihood and freelance journalists would share those worries had the law not exempted them, along with other professionals including insurers, real estate agents, doctors and securities dealers.

Lyft and Uber will fight the law in court so, at present, it may only impact smaller businesses, those who are managing with much tighter profit margins. To stand up for workers, Governor Cuomo needs to put them before the unions and halt reclassification until more evidence emerges.