June 09, 2020

Cortez Masto Urges Administration to Improve Gig Workers’ Access to Unemployment Benefits

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) led a letter with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and eight fellow Senators to the Department of Labor (DOL), asking the Department to clarify how states can best ensure gig and other misclassified workers are getting the unemployment benefits they deserve as quickly as possible.

In Nevada and across the country, millions of people employed in the “gig economy” have been improperly classified by their employers as independent contractors rather than employees, allowing the companies that hire them to avoid paying into much-needed state Unemployment Insurance (UI) trust funds. These workers are now facing challenges accessing both UI and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) funds created by the CARES Act to help workers excluded from traditional UI coverage.

“While some “gig economy workers” may only be eligible for PUA, many workers are misclassified and in some cases already are employees under state law,” said the Senators. “Agencies should process app-based workers by applying their state’s existing laws to determine if they are employees eligible for regular unemployment compensation, rather than presumptively processing them for PUA.”

The Senators continued, “at the same time, state agencies should make it as convenient and quick for eligible workers to receive regular UI benefits as it is to receive PUA benefits, including by acceptance of workers’ proof of earnings where wage records are not in the system and the employer fails to provide them.”

The Senators also called on the Department of Labor to allow state agencies to immediately transfer any misclassified workers from PUA to UI and audit companies who have demonstrated a pattern of misclassifying employees.

Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also signed the letter.

A full copy of the letter can be found here.