Changes in Workers’ Compensation Options Highlight Boston’s Gig Economy for Independent Contractors

BriefcaseIt has become increasingly common for workers, especially those in the millennial generation, to work within the so-called “gig economy.” Companies like Uber, Instacart, and Favor allow individuals to work as independent contractors to perform a variety of services. Uber, the ride-share platform, recently introduced a pilot program for Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits. The company, along with private insurance companies, allows its drivers, who are generally independent contractors, to purchase coverage that offers $1 million maximum coverage for medical costs and weekly earnings due to a work-related accident, and there is no deductible or co-pay.

Employers are mandated, with certain exceptions, to maintain in effect a workers’ compensation policy at all times, under Massachusetts law. The policy reasoning behind this requirement is so that injured workers receive medical benefits as well as some wages, and the employer is shielded against potentially expensive personal injury lawsuits. There are exceptions to this rule, however, and the number of workers within this exception is growing. Massachusetts law does not require that employers maintain workers’ compensation insurance coverage for independent contractors, as opposed to employees. Although there is frequent litigation over whether an employer is correctly classifying its workers as independent contractors, gig economy workers are often treated as independent contractors.

This initiative available to Boston Uber drivers is privately developed, but both the federal government and state lawmakers are introducing legislation that might provide workers in the gig economy with workers’ compensation benefits that are connected to the worker as opposed to the employer. For instance, a U.S. Senator introduced legislation earlier this year that would create a $20 million fund for portable insurance-like benefits. The proposal would be funded by the Department of Labor, but like the Uber project, it would likely be launched as a pilot program and issue grants to state governments, unions, and non-profits.

As the nature of how work is performed continues to shift, the workers’ compensation regime will also change. State laws, including those in Massachusetts, place the requirement of having workers’ compensation insurance on the employer, instead of the employee. In this changing landscape, fewer workers are receiving the benefits of the Massachusetts workers’ compensation regime. However, with many states working on legislation and companies like Uber providing their own options, the same benefits could be more widely available to independent contractors in the future as well.

Workers’ compensation rights and laws are subject to change, and it’s important to work with an attorney who has the legal skills and experience to obtain workers’ compensation benefits on your behalf. Boston workers’ compensation lawyer Michael O. Smith has assisted all types of workers with seeking the workers’ compensation benefits that they are entitled to receive, as required by law. Attorney Smith has worked extensively in the insurance industry, including as an insurance defense attorney and a claims adjuster, so he knows how to negotiate with insurers on your behalf. Mr. Smith will aggressively pursue a favorable result, whether it’s in settlement negotiations or a courtroom trial. Contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation or call us at 617-263-0060.

More Blog Posts:

Top 10 list of items to consider if you sustained a Workers Compensation Injury, Boston Workers’ Compensation Attorney Blog, December 7, 2015

Reduced Worker’s Benefits Award Addressed and Rectified Earlier Omission by Judge; Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Decision, Boston Workers’ Compensation Attorney Blog, March 2, 2017

Photo Credit: mohamed1982eg [CC0], via Pixabay