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How NYC’s Anti-Discrimination Law Affects Gig Workers

How NYC’s Anti-Discrimination Law Affects Gig WorkersGig workers make up an increasing portion of today’s workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic has seen this type of work become even more popular. And although gig workers must still trade some of the benefits of a traditional workplace for the flexibility and freedom they enjoy, New York City is taking steps to provide these workers with as much protection as possible.

The New York City Council approved a change to the city’s employment laws that went into effect at the beginning of 2020.

Now, according to the expansion of the New York City Human Rights Law, protection applies to both employees and independent contractors (ICs). The law was created to provide protection to traditional employees. Before the expansion the laws didn’t even mention ICs or so-called gig workers.

The expansion of the law resulted in many changes for gig workers, ranging from how companies they work with can conduct background checks to how they are managed once they are on board.

Furthermore, the law now permits independent contractors to take legal action if they are discriminated against based on their inclusion in a protected class. They have the right to file complaints with New York’s Commission on Human Rights and they are protected from retaliation if they speak out about harassment or discrimination.

Lawmakers thought it was important to expand the law to protect independent contractors, in part because that group of workers has grown significantly in the last few years.

Previous attempts to protect gig workers included the city’s 2016 Freelance Isn’t Free Act that penalizes employers who do not pay freelancers on time and in full. New York isn’t the only place where lawmakers are making an effort to improve the gig economy. Other states have already or are in the process of passing laws regarding the classification of independent contractors and employees. California’s AB5 law is an example of this.

New York also addressed classification issues under its Dependent Worker Act, which failed to pass in its initial form. The law would’ve extended rights previously only available to employees to contract workers.

Criminal Background Checks

In addition to issues related to pay, benefits, and classification, New York now also requires companies that hire independent contractors to comply with protections related to criminal background checks. Under the New York Correction Law Article 23-A, those conducting criminal background checks must go through an eight-step analysis that helps them assess the risk posed by someone with a criminal record.

Among other things, it encourages them to consider whether or not someone’s conviction history would affect his or her ability to do a job and look at how long it has been since the conviction took place.

COVID-19 Changes

One of the most significant changes that occurred regarding protection for independent contractors due to the COVID-19 pandemic was the extension of unemployment benefits to ICs.

Previously, ICs were not eligible for a variety of benefits offered to employees. The spring 2020 shutdown of many parts of the economy shown a light on problems in the industry and it is expected efforts to improve things will continue even after the pandemic is over.

If you have questions about work or benefits as an IC or you want to speak to someone about mistreatment, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C.

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