Washington Law Review

Essay

Platform Pleading: Analyzing Employment Disputes in the Technology Sector

December 20, 2019 | 94 Wash. L. Rev. 1947

Abstract: The technology sector has created thousands of new jobs for workers across the country in an emerging multi-billion dollar industry. Many companies in this platform-based sector are attempting to characterize their workers as independent contractors rather than employees, thus stripping them of both federal and state workplace protections—including the right to bargain collectively, receive fair compensation, and avoid discrimination. The federal courts, which have always grappled with the question of worker classification, are now struggling to define employment with respect to these gig sector jobs. The result has been scattered court decisions with inconsistent and conflicting analyses.

This Essay seeks to provide the courts with much needed guidance on the question of worker classification in the technology sector at the pleading stage of a case. This Essay performs a review of the recent cases that have addressed this issue, synthesizing the varied analyses of these decisions. Navigating the reasoning used by the courts, as well as the Supreme Court’s evolving pleading precedent, this Essay proposes a new analytical framework for addressing the question of worker classification for technology sector claims. The model proposed by this Essay will assist the courts and litigants in better evaluating whether an employment relationship has been established by a platform-based worker in the gig economy.


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