ABA Journal of Labor & Employment Law
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, estimates suggest that approximately forty percent of U.S. workers shifted to working remotely from home. But for many gig workers, who performed grocery shopping for Instacart, delivered food and restaurant meals for DoorDash, or who picked up and delivered packages for Shipt, they were working in person and busier than ever. In fact, many of these gig jobs were considered "essential work," and the rules of state lockdowns across the country classified gig workers as "essential workers."
Paid by the task, and managed by algorithms that can automatically deactivate an account, gig employment is among the most precarious type of work in the U.S. economy. With little in the way of job security or benefits, gig workers have been marginalized by the view that their work exists only for the sake of convenience. They also were initially left out of the protections of labor and employment law and have had to sue to claim employee status. Until now. It might appear counterintuitive, but the public health crisis triggered by COVID-19 is having a corrective function in employment and labor practices: the meal delivery driver, the on-demand grocery shopper, and the on-demand package deliverer are all now considered essential. This shift has come with very specific benefits, like pandemic unemployment assistance and sick days. As such, the events of the pandemic have moved—at least some—gig workers closer to parity with traditional employees. In this contribution, we argue that a move to parity is long overdue, and, now, based on their work throughout the pandemic, gig workers have certainly earned it.