It’s no longer all about independent contractors at Instacart, a provider of an app for consumers to order groceries delivered to their homes from local stores.
The San Francisco-based company announced this week it’s giving “personal shoppers” in Boston and Chicago the option of being independent contractors or employees instead of the one choice of independent contractor.
Instacart’s announcement comes as it remains embroiled in a lawsuit by some workers claiming they were misclassified and are actually employees. A case in federal court in California seeks class action status and includes shoppers and drivers.
“When you look at the difficulty of shopping, picking and delivering items such as fruit or eggs that need to be carefully selected, you realize that grocery shopping can be complicated,” said Apoorva Mehta, founder and CEO of Instacart. “For this reason, we want to provide supervision and training, which can only be done with employees.
“We began experimenting with part-time employee roles in Boston,” Mehta continued, “and the data from our pilot showed that this change improved the quality and efficiency of order picking and made for a better customer experience. We’re excited to be able to expand this option to other cities.
Personal shoppers gather and prepare orders at grocery stores. The drivers who take the items from store to consumer will remain independent contractors.
Separating shoppers and drivers is a new direction for Instacart, which in the past had combined both jobs with the workers classified as independent contractors.
The company plans soon to allow personal shoppers in some other cities to also choose whether to be independent contractors or employees. Instacart estimates three-fourths of personal shoppers will opt for part-time employee status based on its experiments in Boston.
Managing the mix of nonemployee workers and traditionally hired workers is part of an emerging model called “total talent management.” Staffing Industry Analysts and ERE recently produced a new report  detailing the trend.
Separately, a California commission ruled last week that an Uber driver was an employee, not an independent contractor . The ride-sharing firm is appealing the decision.