Gig workers and non-traditional employees and contractors, have increased in numbers steadily since 2015 and are expected to continue growing – over doubling in just five years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employees included in these categories include temporary employees, employees provided and paid by a staffing agency, part-time and job-sharing employees, and contracted gig workers like those available from Uber, Fiverr, Lyft, Doordash, and more. There are expected to be as many as 7.6 million gig workers by 2020, comprising a relatively significant portion of the American workforce.
This is perhaps the largest and most notable shift in employment dynamics in recent American history. With this shift in worker demographics, organizations must consider whether the way they’ve always done things provides adequate risk mitigation today. Among these considerations include questions about benefits offerings, perks, and, perhaps most importantly, pre-employment screening.
While it hasn’t been standard to date to put gig workers through the same robust pre-employment screening process as full-time employees, many gig workers come in direct contact with the client, often in private places or even their own homes. This comes with inherent risk to the organization advertising and selling their services and safety when these gig workers haven’t been adequately screened in advance. As a matter of fact, Uber, who connects people with cars with people who need rides worldwide – has faced more than one expensive lawsuit:
- Uber was sued by the National Federation for the Blind after some drivers refused to pick up passengers because they had service animals and another locked the passenger’s service animal in the trunk during transit.
- The company has been sued on several occasions after female passengers have been raped or sexually harassed by their driver during their Uber ride.
- One Uber driver hit and killed a six-year-old, resulting in another lawsuit against the organization.
- Another lawsuit resulted when a female passenger accepted a complimentary bottle of water, which allegedly contained date rape drug, and woke up naked in her room the next day.
While Uber does conduct background checks, some city governments and passengers argue that they aren’t thorough enough There were no Copyscape matches found. and don’t meet the same stringent guidelines often required for traditional cab drivers.
While many organizations hesitate to the pull the trigger on holding gig workers and other non-traditional team members accountable for the same pre-employment screening process as their full-time crew because it limits the accessibility to work for gig workers, it’s important to note that flexibility – not accessibility – drives the decision to take on gig work for most. A more stringent pre-employment screening process decreases the size of the pool but also risk, concurrently.
So what measures can an organization take to reduce risk and liability while still ensuring they’re able to fill their open gigs? In the best case, they should hold gig workers and full-time employees to the same standards. Both represent the organization, not just when it comes to how they present themselves and impact the employer and company brand, but also legally. Organizations should consider the potential cost of litigation and settlements against the investment they make in advance to weed out gig workers who put their organization and clients at risk.
When the best case scenario isn’t possible, organizations can make a decision about pre-employment screening on a case-by-case basis – not varying between one gig worker and the next but varying between one role and the next. For example, a gig worker who provides proofreading services on Fiverr may pose less risk than a gig worker who comes into people’s homes to provide care to their children or pets. While this isn’t the recommendation, it can serve as a transition strategy for organizations who want to ease into background screening for gig workers.
In conclusion, as gig workers stake a claim in the United States, employers must be innately aware of the risk associated with this route and take adequate measures to reduce risk and improve the client experience