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Growing contractor labor force lacks discrimination protections

As more people in Texas and across the country operate in the "gig economy," they could lose key protections against workplace discrimination. Most people don't expect to face racial, gender, age or disability discrimination on the job, especially as they are prohibited by law. However, American employment laws are largely made to protect employees, and people who work as freelancers and independent contractors often aren't covered by the provisions of those labor laws.

Whether people drive for a ridesharing service, teach online classes or perform pet-sitting services, they are usually treated as independent contractors, not employees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that millions of Americans rely on these jobs for most or even all of their income. Around 14 percent of American workers described themselves as independent contractors or involved in some kind of contingent employment relationship, and around half of those are classified outside the framework of laws against employment discrimination.

Some say that those estimates are far too low; another company estimated that 44 million Americans, up to 29 percent of the workforce, had some involvement with temporary or contracting work. Independent contractors are taxed differently from employees, and they are supposed to be truly independent, setting their own schedule and tasks. However, some companies exploit the loopholes represented by the contractor classification to improperly apply the label to people who are actually employees. In some cases, companies direct all of the work performed by these people but continue to handle their paperwork as if they were contractors.

People who have faced discrimination on the job may wish to consult with an employment lawyer. Even independent contractors may not be properly classified as such, depending on the nature of their jobs. A lawyer may help people subject to workplace discrimination to take action to protect their rights and seek compensation.

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