Uber Wants Labor Dept.'s Health Rule to Consider Gig Workers

Employee Benefits News examines legal developments that impact the employee benefits and executive compensation employers provide, including federal and state legislation, rules from federal...

By Madison Alder

Uber Inc. and its health-care partner, Stride Health, want to make sure the Labor Department considers workers in the gig economy when drafting its final rule for the expansion of association health plans.

The ride-share giant and the online health insurance broker asked the DOL in separate letters to allow workers with multiple jobs and varied hours to be eligible to participate in association health plans. Uber, which has long fought for portable benefits legislation for its independent contractor drivers, also said it wants clarification on worker classification under the plan.

The DOL’s proposed rule would expand access to health plans formed by associations by changing the definition of “employer” to allow more small businesses, including self-employed individuals, to join groups that could form health plans on the basis of industry or geography. The DOL created the rule after it was asked to consider expanding the plans in a October 2017 executive order. The comment period for the proposed rule ended March 6.

Include Gig Workers, Companies Say

Under the proposed rule, workers would have to identify with a single profession in a single industry to be eligible to participate in an association health plan. Both San Francisco-based companies said they want the DOL to consider the fact that gig workers often have multiple jobs in multiple industries and the single profession/single industry requirement may put them at a disadvantage.

More than half of the Uber drivers in the U.S. work less than 10 hours a week, Uber said in its letter. Many of those drivers are supplementing their income or working for multiple gig economy platforms, so it’s important the rule provide them with enough flexibility to do so, the ride-share company said.

Uber proposed the DOL do this by clarifying “how the minimum income and 30 hour threshold would be calculated for workers who supplement their income through a range of activities.”

Stride Health, which partners with many gig economy labor platforms, said the proposed rule wouldn’t lend itself to entrepreneurs.

“As written, having individuals identify with a single profession or job does not accurately represent today’s self-employed workforce, many of whom earn income though multiple jobs or are in the process of starting a business,” Stride Health said in its letter.

The proposed rule would also require a board of employees to oversee an association health plan.

Uber took issue with the language of that provision because of its independent contractor-driven workforce. It said “entities such as Uber would be better positioned to assist driver-partners in administering such plans if the rule made clear that doing so could not be used as evidence that driver-partners are employees, rather than independent contractors.”

Uber and Stride Health didn’t respond to Bloomberg Law’s requests for comment.

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