Russell Beck is featured in an August 17, 2014, Boston Globe story about the debate over the classification of workers as independent contractors as opposed to employees. The article focuses on the thorny issues raised by Massachusetts laws regarding the classification of workers and the effect on startups, like Uber and TaskRabbit. The article is by the Globe’s correspondent, Scott Kirsner.
The article features Russell Beck’s analysis of the worker classification issue:
A class-action lawsuit filed this summer in Massachusetts and California courts is challenging that. The suit asserts that Uber improperly classifies its drivers, who own their cars and use Uber’s smartphone app to get work, as independent contractors. No sick time, no health insurance, no 401(k) contributions.
And the case is creating anxiety for other startups providing on-demand services, typically using websites or mobile apps.
Rightfully so, says Russell Beck, an attorney with Beck Reed Riden LLP in Boston. Massachusetts puts the burden on employers to rebut “a strong presumption that the individual is an employee,” Beck explains. The central legal question: whether the individual is performing a task “outside of the usual course of the employer’s business.”
A plumber who fixes a leaky faucet at Uber’s office is an independent contractor. But “anyone who is driving a car for Uber is performing precisely the service that Uber provides in the usual course of its business,” Beck says, and thus is probably considered an employee in the state.
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