New York — Council Member Brad Lander sent a letter today to gig economy companies calling on them to take immediate action to address the vulnerability of contract workers during the coronavirus outbreak, including providing paid sick leave to their workers during the crisis.
“Gig workers are on the frontlines of the health and economic risks of the coronavirus outbreak,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “People who drive Ubers, deliver Seamless orders, shop for Instacart customers, or clean homes through Handy lack paid sick leave and employer-sponsored health insurance. As a result, they face an increased risk of contracting and spreading the virus. Companies that contract these workers have a public health responsibility at this moment to provide paid sick days, and to create a healthy work environment where workers and customers have the protections they need.”
Food delivery workers, for-hire vehicle drivers, and others working in the gig economy are particularly vulnerable to the economic and health impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. Unlike most office workers, the jobs of many independent contractors (as well as employees) working in the service sector require near-constant interaction with people in public spaces, putting them at greater risk for exposure to coronavirus and other illnesses. Yet as independent contractors, these workers do not receive any sick leave or access to employer-backed health insurance.
The letter, addressed to the leadership of Uber, Lyft, GrubHub, Instacart, Doordash, Postmates, and Handy, highlights the responsibilities companies have to their workers, to customers, and to public health amid the outbreak. It calls on companies to provide paid sick leave to independent contractors, educate workers about the risks of the virus, provide cleaning materials, actively combat discrimination, and halt any rating systems that punish workers for leaving deliveries at the door rather than face-to-face.
In addition to calling for independent action by companies, Lander is urging Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to speedily adopt legislation or regulations that would properly reclassify many gig workers as employees, making them eligible for paid sick leave and employer-sponsored health care, among other benefits. Council Member Lander’s actions follow similar calls made by Working Washington, a workers rights and advocacy group in Washington State.
New York City adopted a law requiring paid sick days for employees in 2013. Governor Cuomo is proposing to expand that law statewide, and to include a provision that would require employers to pay workers and protect their jobs if they are quarantined because of the coronavirus. However, those provisions would cover gig workers unless they are reclassified as employees.
“While, we’ve made great strides here in New York City to better support gig workers by raising wages for Uber, Lyft, and other for-hire vehicle drivers, independent workers still lack the basic right to stay home when they are sick without experiencing undue financial hardship,” said Lander. “In the immediate term, companies have an obligation, both to their workers and to the broader public, to ensure that workers are informed about their risks and have the resources to take precautions, stay home when they are sick, and retain financial stability during this public health crisis.”