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Freelancers, rejoice! AB5 modified for the better

(BUSINESS NEWS) For freelancers across the state, Assembly Bill No. 5 meant job insecurity and mass unemployment. These latest changes to AB5 may put gig workers back on the clock.

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Freelancers working on laptop in home office.

When Assembly Bill No. 5 rolled out in January, the ramifications of such a far-reaching bill weren’t yet fully understood. Neither the governing body that signed it into action — nor the gig workers that it directly (and indirectly) affected — could fully comprehend what might occur after its inception. Sure, there was ample uncertainty as to how it would affect certain industries, but there was also a significant amount of optimism, too. Many people saw it as their salvation, an opportunity to finally get a little bit of stability in their lives. Others, though, were certain it would spell out their demise, all but terminating their tenure as freelancers.

AB5 was admittedly a fairly idealistic bill, and its premise was fairly straightforward: If you happened to be a gig worker (or freelancer) in the state of California, then surprise! According to this new bill, you were suddenly an employee. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, this new title also came with a host of awesome new benefits associated with such a role. What kind of benefits were made available to these former gig workers? Well, for example, they finally were entitled to literal employee benefits. Like health insurance benefits, for starters. Paid time off. Overtime. A guaranteed minimum wage. On paper, it sounded pretty awesome. Who wouldn’t want all of these amazing perks?

Of course, AB5 didn’t consider these things to be “perks.” Instead, they just wanted workers in the Golden State to get what they felt was legally owed to them. The minds behind AB5 had a simple goal. They felt as though many of California’s workers were grossly misclassified, and they wanted to remedy that. And, based on the sheer number of protests across the state from Uber and Lyft workers, it seemed as though most people were inclined to agree with them. The problem, according to the lawmakers, was that many gig workers lacked basic protections that many hourly employees possessed. They just wanted what their shift-working peers had. Who could blame them?

While those who drafted AB5 may have sincerely believed they were doing the right thing, it also meant that suddenly thousands of gig workers in California were suddenly without a job. Why would someone want to hire a Californian when the risk of liability was so high? Take, for instance, freelance writers. According to the text of AB5, a freelancer could write a mere thirty-five articles before they were officially classified as an employee. Who would want to deal with that, and manually count every single article that landed on their desk, when they could simply snatch up a freelancer (with no such restrictions) from a different state?

Fortunately, the grumbling of these scores of disgruntled freelancers was finally heard. It was a long and arduous process, one where the outcome was hazy and uncertain at times. But this past week, Governor Gavin Newsome finally decided that enough was enough, and he made the necessary modifications to AB5. After much anticipation and vocal displeasure from California gig workers, freelancers (including writers, artists, musicians, and translators) are finally, well, free once more to do their own thing.

There’s a lesson to be learned here. Many freelancers chose this role because they wanted the personal autonomy to be able to do what they wanted, without massive overreach dictating the minutiae of their day-to-day lives. While there certainly were many gig workers who felt as though they were being taken advantage of (and there is strong evidence that this is true, particularly in the rideshare sector), many of us simply wanted to go back to how things were before AB5 tried to upend our lives.

When a law that was meant to help Californian workers actually winds up harming them, then it’s a fairly clear sign that there were serious flaws within it. Fortunately, California made the right call here. While there may be other modifications to it in the future, at least freelancers finally have been given back the liberty to work how they choose — without worrying about losing their employment because they were, ironically, made into employees.

Karyl is a Southern transplant, now living on the Central Coast with her husband. She's proud to belong to two very handsome cats, both of which have made it very clear as to where she ranks on the social hierarchy. When she's not working as an optician, you can either find her chipping away at her next science-fiction novel or training for an upcoming race. She holds an AAT in Psychology, which is just a fancy way of saying that she likes poking around inside people's brains. She's very socially awkward and has no idea how to describe herself, which is why this bio is just as dorky and weird as she is.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. u-os.org

    September 19, 2020 at 10:15 am

    wonderful post, very informative. I ponder why the other experts of this sector do not realize this.
    You must continue your writing. I am sure, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!

  2. Pingback: What freelancers need to know about new tax form 1099-NEC

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Business News

Missing office culture while working remotely? This tool tries to recreate it

(BUSINESS NEWS) This startup just released new software to help you reproduce the best parts of in-person office interactions while you work from home.

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Loop Team product page, trying to create an office culture experience remotely.

Are you over working from home? Feeling disconnected from your co-workers? Well look no further: The startup Loop Team just released a tool that reproduces the office culture experience virtually.

“We’ve looked at a lot of the interactions that happen when you’re physically in an office — the visual communication, the background conversations, the hallway chatter,” said Loop Team’s founder and CEO Raj Singh in an interview with TechCrunch. “[W]e built an experience that effectively is a virtual office. And so it tries to represent the best parts of what a physical office experience might be like, but in a virtual form.”

Singh’s company, founded pre-COVID, is posed as a solution to feeling “out of the loop” while working remotely. During the pandemic, where virtually all of us are working from home, this technology is needed more than ever.

How it works is by essentially recreating an office experience on a virtual platform. Somewhere between Zoom and Slack with some added features, Loop Team lets you know who’s free to chat, who’s in meetings, and allows you to have private discussions using audio, video, and screen share. It’s ideal for working on projects together.

Loop’s layout is unique in the sense that it is designed to show you conversations in a clear, direct way – exposing relevant items and hiding the rest. Also, employees who miss meetings have the ability to review what they missed, making it perfect for companies that hire across time zones.

The platform was made available December 1st free of charge, but Singh is hoping to introduce a paid version next year. Pricing will likely reflect team size and should remain free for teams of 10 or less.

I’m a big fan of software that allows you to feel closer and more connected to your co-workers. Do I think anything will ever compare to a true, in-person office experience? Definitely not. That being said, I value this kind of progress, especially since I don’t think office culture en mass will make a return any time soon, regardless of vaccinations.

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Business News

MIT report reveals serious flaws in US unemployment system

(BUSINESS NEWS) In the wake of COVID-19, the US unemployment system is floundering to cover all who need the aid but it comes with serious flaws.

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Stressed couple discussing options during unemployment in dimly lit room.

Last week alone, nearly 1 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits. Now that it’s urgently needed, this safety net is full of holes, leaving many Americans in freefall.

A newspaper from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has highlighted several of the critical weaknesses in our country’s unemployment social safety net.

The report outlines how benefits fall short in three major ways: Duration, eligibility, and payment amounts.

The historical purpose of the benefits system was to replace half of lost wages for 6 months while they looked for another job. (The MIT paper even suggests that a more appropriate “replacement rate” would be higher than that.)

As of 2018, unemployment payments only cover Americans for one-third of their lost wages on average.

The income caps for these benefits have stayed fixed while wages have increased over time. That’s bad enough without considering that wages haven’t nearly kept up with worker productivity in the US, meaning those caps haven’t kept up with the real worth of those workers at all.

Compared to other developed nations, the US has lagged behind in public benefits since well before the pandemic.

In 2014, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development compared the duration of unemployment payments around the world. Out of 34 developed countries, the US ranked 33rd— offering less than every country on the list but Hungary.

To quote the research brief for the paper: “Even aside from changes driven by technology and trade, employers’ increasing reliance on contract workers and on-demand scheduling rather than on permanent employees who work predictable schedules has added to the precariousness of many workers’ jobs.”

And those economically vulnerable groups who need the support most are more likely to have jobs that aren’t covered under federal unemployment eligibility.

This includes gig workers (thanks to prop 22), part time workers, and the self employed: People often work these jobs due to constraints like parenthood or disability.

The CARES Act, which passed in April, temporarily allowed certain groups who would usually be ineligible, like the self employed (who are poised to grow in numbers as the job shortage persists) to collect unemployment benefits.

But CARES and HEROES are going to end in December, taking the extensions to unemployment, the eviction moratorium and the COVID sick leave requirements with them.

And instead of extending them, Congress may soon be looking to cannibalize those programs and their unused funds for another round of corporate stimulus spending.

But if the coronavirus relief acts are allowed to expire, nearly 14 million Americans will lose the aid that they provide.

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Business News

Tis the season for employment scams – here’s what to look out for

(BUSINESS NEWS) Fueled even further by COVID unemployment numbers, seasonal employment scams are back on the menu. Here’s how you can avoid them.

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A serious man considers a clipboard in potential employment scams.

With the sheer amount of desperation people are feeling these days, it’s only fitting that employment scams would see a resurgence this holiday season. Thanks to the Better Business Bureau, there are some clear warning signs that can help you spot and avoid seasonal scams this year.

The typical crux of any employment scam revolves around a prospective employee’s willingness to pay for something upfront, be it training or some other kind of quasi-justifiable item (e.g., a uniform). However, other iterations of the scam actually involve an “employer” overpaying for something at the onset—albeit with a fake check—and then asking the recipient to wire “back” the extra money.

Either way, these scams can leave you jobless and with less money than you initially had, so here are some things for which you should watch out.

Firstly, employers shouldn’t ever charge you before hiring you. Some industries do require employees to make small purchases on their own dime (i.e., the aforementioned uniform), but payroll will usually deduct the cost of these materials from the employee’s first paycheck—not require payment upfront.

As a general rule, it’s probably best to avoid companies that charge you at all. Aramark, for example, is known for requiring employees to buy company clothes—and they’re no peach to work with. But desperate times may warrant an exception in this regard.

It’s also to your benefit to avoid postings that boast an “interview-free” experience. Put simply, no one is hiring sans an interview unless it’s nepotism or a scam. If you aren’t related to the poster, that doesn’t leave much up for interpretation. Similarly, advertising a large sum of money for disproportionately low amounts of work is a pretty big warning sign–again, in this economy, people aren’t shelling out for packing or wrapping jobs.

Finally, watch out for jobs that ask for a work sample before hiring. While this is common for internships, most entry-level positions aren’t going to require you to complete a project for free before determining whether or not you’re good for the job. At best, this is a tactic to get free work from you; at worst, your application information can be stolen.

It’s sad to think that people would stoop to the level of scamming others amidst the dumpster fire of a year it’s been, but if you avoid these red flags, you should be able to keep yourself safe during this holiday season.

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