A bill that would introduce a new type of work arrangement was introduced in the US House of Representatives last month. The new arrangement would aim to combine the flexibility of independent work with certain workplace protections and benefits. However, some argue the bill would remove minimum wage and overtime protections.
The bill — dubbed the “Worker Flexibility and Choice Act” — was introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers: Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; Elise Stefanik, R-New York; and Michelle Steel, R-California.
“Texas workers have expanded into the gig economy at rapid speed for the flexibility and opportunities that it provides,” Cuellar said. “This legislation promotes that type of independent work.”
According to the lawmakers, the bill aims to:
- Ensure workers retain the freedom and flexibility to accept or reject offers to provide their services.
- Promote worker freedom without infringing on certain workplace rights, including protections against discrimination, retaliation and harassment.
- Allow workers to engage with and provide services for multiple entities at any given time.
- Provide workers with a written summary of any health, pension, training or other benefits.
Workers would agree to a “worker flexibility agreement” before work begins.
“The bipartisan Worker Flexibility and Choice Act will empower workers to choose the type of work that best fits their needs while allowing businesses to offer workplace benefits traditionally only available to employees,” said Stefanik, one of the bill’s supporters.
However, the bill would effectively eliminate the minimum wage and overtime compensation protections in one fell swoop, Veena Dubal, a professor at University of California Hastings College of the Law, told MarketWatch.
“The idea is that in exchange, a worker would get ‘flexibility’ associated with gig work,” Dubal said. “But this is a false dichotomy. Workers should have time flexibility and a wage floor. And they can — under an employment model.”
One of the bill’s supporters, California Congresswoman Steel, earlier this month took part in a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to take action to prevent the state’s AB 5 law — which restricts independent contractor classification — from impacting California’s trucking industry. Republican lawmakers from the state argued that AB 5 puts in doubt the independent contractor classification of 70,000 truckers in the state.