February 26, 2020

This year’s Executive Budget Proposal includes a provision that would create a “New York Digital Marketplace Worker Classification Task Force.” The task force would be responsible for recommending measures to regulate the workforce of the ‘gig economy,’ which includes workers who enter into formal agreements with on-demand companies, often for a specified period of time. Examples of gig economy workers can include freelance writers, graphic designers, online educators, photographers, computer programmers, dog walkers and pet sitters, drivers for rideshare or food delivery companies, etc. 

The gig economy has received criticism for the way some of the companies that employ gig workers classify them as independent contractors rather than employees, making them ineligible for certain state benefits that other full-time workers may be eligible for.

The proposed task force is being given broad authority to recommend changes that could include allowing the state to set wages, determine employment criteria, set health and safety standards, allow for collective bargaining, and better enforce anti-discrimination measures. The proposed task force would consist of nine members, most of whom would be appointed by the Governor. Under the proposal, the task force would be required to provide recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature by May 1, 2020 (only one month after the deadline for the final state budget to be approved). If the Legislature fails to pass legislation addressing the issue between May 1, 2020 and June 2, 2020, the proposal would give the Department of Labor the broad authority to unilaterally set its own regulations. 

Supporters of the changes argue that the proposal is necessary to protect workers in the gig economy, while opponents argue that the changes would take away the flexibility that gig workers depend on and would jeopardize the ability of the companies who hire gig employees to continue operating. 

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