Jainchill & Beckert, LLC

The safety risks that gig workers face

Many people in Connecticut are taking advantage of the growing gig economy as employers, employment agencies and digital platforms continue to put out short-term projects on demand. The idea of being paid per job is attractive to both full-time freelancers and those just trying to earn some extra cash.

In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that 8 percent of American adults earned money from online gig work in 2015, with 29 percent claiming that the money they earned went toward their basic needs. That same year, the Freelancers Union estimated that 55 million Americans complete some type of freelance work annually.

However, there are safety concerns with freelance jobs. Gig workers are considered independent contractors and thus do not receive benefits such as workers' compensation. Fatality and injury rates are high among gig workers like bicycle messengers and transportation network workers. There has been a push to better differentiate between independent contractors and true employees.

The Seattle City Council, for example, adopted an ordinance in 2015 that gives independent contractors the right to collectively bargain with their companies. This could ensure stricter regulations regarding worker safety. For example, a taxicab company could have vehicles properly inspected and raise wages so that drivers avoid fatiguing themselves during long work hours.

When workers are injured through no fault of their own, they may want to seek legal counsel. If they are covered under workers' compensation, they could choose to receive its benefits; although, there will be a cap on the amount. When negligence on the company's part causes the accident, however, the victim may want to opt for a personal injury claim. A lawyer could negotiate for the settlement.

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