May 12, 2017
Normally known for its innovative technology, Uber is testing ground-breaking ways to offer its drivers access to a type of workers' compensation insurance, a protection not typically available to workers in the gig economy. The benefit, being tested first in South Carolina, will help drivers who choose the option to pay medical bills and replace earnings if injured while working. Gus Fuldner, Uber's Head of Insurance, said: "While this driver injury protection product is the first of its kind, it’s the latest example of things we’ve been working on in the broader category of benefits designed for independent workers." Offering benefits to independent employees is a challenge for companies such as Uber who engage independent contractors, as the benefits may be alleged to be indicia of employment. It remains to be seen whether Uber’s new benefit prompts a challenge to the status of its drivers. Having given early attention to the issue, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) is expected to introduce legislation soon that would establish a grant program assisting nonprofits and local governments in developing portable benefits for independent workers. House Chair of Education and the Workforce Committee Virginia Foxx (R-NC) has also expressed interest in adjusting the FLSA to better accommodate gig workers, as previously reported.