New York State to Consider Law Allowing Portable Benefits to Gig Workers

January 13, 2017

New York State Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle (D) and State Senator Diane Savino (D), a former union official, will soon introduce legislation that would allow independent contractors to opt into a company-funded portable benefits program in which a company would pay the equivalent of 2.5 percent of the worker's income into a health savings account or other benefit.  Workers who take advantage of the program would reportedly be considered contractors as long as they are deemed as such by their contracts, while still being able to choose their own schedules and work for other companies.  Working with the two sponsors on crafting the bill are gig company trade group Tech:NYC, whose members include Uber, Facebook, and Google, among other tech companies, and Handy, a gig company whose founder has said he desires to provide training and further benefits to workers but has been hesitant to do so as such action could constitute an indicia of employment.  Along with providing benefits to workers, a goal of the legislation is to relieve pressure from lawsuits concerning employment status of independent contractors.  If passed, the bill would not impact how workers are classified under federal law or in other states, but proponents hope it can become a model for developments in those areas.  Despite Democratic sponsorship, outgoing DOL Wage and Hour Administrator David Weil has spoken out against the measure, saying: "I do not believe it’s appropriate, nor wise, to bargain away baseline protections to get more [benefits].  I think that’s perilous, to be quite frank."