From Uber to Amazon, increasingly U.S. companies are turning to independent contractors for many of their employment needs. According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, an estimated 12.5 million people in the U.S. are currently classified as independent contractors, a number that equates to "8.4 percent of the U.S. workforce."
This figure represents a growing, and some argue destabilizing, trend within the U.S. economy as companies move away from hiring part-time and full-time employees and choose instead to rely upon independent contractors. The problem, workers' rights advocates contend, is that independent contractors aren't afforded employment-related benefits and protections like unemployment, minimum wages and workers' compensation.
In general, this means that independent contractors who are injured while at work or while performing work-related duties, can't file claim for workers' compensation benefits. There is, however, a caveat in New York State that applies to so-called independent contractors within the construction industry.
The construction industry is inherently dangerous. As evidence of this fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, during 2013 and 2014, 37 percent of employment-related fatalities in New York City occurred within the construction industry. To help protect independent contractors who work construction, in August of 2010, the New York State Construction Industry Fair Play Act was enacted.
Under this law, within the construction industry "any person performing services for a contractor is presumed to be an employee of that contractor." The law helps ensure that all construction workers within the state are afforded the same rights and protections with regard to pay and the important financial safety net that workers' compensation benefits provide to injured workers and their families.
Source: New York State: Workers' Compensation Board, "Workers' Compensation Coverage," April 7, 2016
Los Angeles Times, "Why the gig economy doesn't work for everyone," Natalie Kitroeff, April 4, 2016