This Article explores what I call the “essential worker paradox”: During the pandemic, gig workers have been recognized as providing critical and important services. At the same time, the law has yet to recognize gig workers fully and to commit to providing them with the same basic protections as employees. The Article argues that the stark difference in treatment between gig workers and regular employees has long created unfairness. While views of gig work as a side hustle or work driven by customer convenience may have prevailed in the past, now the meal delivery driver and the on-demand grocery shopper are recognized as providing important services. And a shift in the way gig work is now viewed as essential has come with newly awarded benefits, like pandemic unemployment assistance and paid sick leave, which were not available to gig workers in the past. As such, the events of the pandemic have moved—at least some—gig workers closer to parity with traditional employees. This Article argues that because of their heroic efforts during the pandemic, they have earned employee status.
Cherry, Miriam A., Employment Status for “Essential Workers”: The Case for Gig Worker Parity. Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Forthcoming v. 55, no.2, 2022, Saint Louis U. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2021-17, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=