2016 Outlook on Labor & Employment: Worker Status in the Gig Economy

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As digital platforms that link workers with “gigs”—on-demand, freelance jobs—are increasing, questions arise about the status of and security for workers who earn a full or part-time living through the on-demand workforce whether driving cars through Uber, doing odd jobs through TaskRabbit, or renting out their apartments through Airbnb.  Are these workers employees, independent contractors or something else?  The panel will discuss the legal status of these workers and the implications of the on-demand economy in general.

Educational Objectives:
Understand the changing nature of work in the on-demand economy.  Hear expert perspectives on issues of interest including:
• Differences between marketplaces like Airbnb and service providers like Instacart
• The impact of worker classifications and whether there is a possible third classification 
• Debates surrounding whether tax and employment laws should be adapted in light of the sharing economy
• Where Congress stands, and how lawmakers are thinking about worker issues
Portable benefits models and other possible protections for sharing economy workers

Who would benefit most from attending this program?
• Labor and employment law practitioners, particularly those who work on wage and hour issues
• Human resources practitioners
• In-house counsel
• Government affairs specialists


Seth D. Harris, Dentons

Seth D. Harris is a member of Dentons' Public Policy and Regulation practice. Before joining Dentons, Seth served four and a half years as the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor, and six months as Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor and a member of President Barack Obama's Cabinet. A nationally recognized leader in his field, he counsels clients on matters relating to labor, employment and immigration law and policy, as well as government performance, regulatory policy and practice, public policy and national politics. He is the co-author of A Proposal for Modernizing Labor Laws for Twenty-First-Century Work: The ‘Independent Worker.’  New York University School of Law and Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Randy Johnson, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Before joining the Chamber, Randy Johnson was the Republican labor counsel and coordinator for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce where he supervised a staff of professionals and was responsible for employment policy and legal issues before the committee.  His prior experience includes six years as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor where he was the special assistant to the Solicitor of Labor for Regulatory Affairs and the department’s liaison to the Office of Management and Budget, specializing in the areas of equal employment opportunity and occupational safety and health. University of Maryland School of Law, Master of Laws in labor relations from the Georgetown University Law Center and Denison University undergraduate.

Kelly Ross, AFL-CIO

Kelly Ross has been with the AFL-CIO since 2002, and has been Deputy Policy Director for the AFL-CIO since 2010.  As Deputy Policy Director, he is responsible for policy formulation and implementation on a wide range of issues, including economic policy, budget and tax policy, labor standards, and employment policy.  He holds an A.B. in International Relations from Stanford University; an A.M. in International Policy Studies from Stanford University; and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Rebecca Smith, NELP

Rebecca Smith joined NELP in 2000, after nearly 20 years advocating for migrant farm workers in Washington State.  At NELP, she has worked to modernize state unemployment insurance programs, promoting reforms to fill the gaps in the program denying benefits to women and families.  J.D., University of Washington Law School, B.A., Washington State University, B.A., University of Washington. She is the co-author of “Rights On Demand: Ensuring Workplace Standards and Worker Security in the On-Demand Economy.”

Mark Warner, Senator, Virginia

Senator Warner was elected to the U.S. Senate in November 2008 and reelected to a second term in November 2014. He serves on the Senate Finance, Banking, Budget, and Intelligence committees. During his time in the Senate, Senator Warner has established himself as a bipartisan leader who has worked with Republicans and Democrats alike to cut red tape, increase government performance and accountability, and promote private sector innovation and job creation. Senator Warner has been recognized as a national leader in fighting for our military men and women and veterans, and in working to find bipartisan, balanced solutions to address our country's debt and deficit.  From 2002 to 2006, he served as Governor of Virginia.  When he left office in 2006, Virginia was ranked as the best state for business, the best managed state, and the best state in which to receive a public education.