The sharing economy generally refers to a system in which human and physical resources are shared. Airbnb - where homeowners rent out their property to visitors - is one example of a “sharing economy” business. Uber - a ride-sharing service where transportation is organized via a cell phone app - is another example.
Not all sharing economy businesses rely on regular workers to sustain the company. But some do, and in those cases, workers are now filing lawsuits alleging they’ve been misclassified as independent contractors instead of being categorized as employees.
The distinction is an important one - both for the worker and for the company. Employees receive certain protections and benefits, including minimum wage, overtime and workers compensation. Independent contractors have none of those protections - and have to pay for their own expenses - but have more discretion in the work they do, including the ability to determine when and how they work, and how much they charge.
READ MORE CALIFORNIA OVERTIME LEGAL NEWS
A lawsuit in California against Uber will have repercussions for the industry, with US District Judge Edward M. Chen considering a lawsuit filed by 160,000 California drivers, who argue they should be reimbursed for mileage and tips. Chen will decide whether the lawsuit can proceed as a class action, although he has already indicated that so far he believes the drivers should have been classified as employees.