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How worker classification could impact worker safety

The gig economy has become a common phrase for Oklahoma workers and others throughout the country. While there is no set definition, it generally refers to work that is paid per job as opposed to per a given amount of time. In most cases, those who do gig work are classified as independent contractors, which may pose health and safety issues.

For instance, independent contractors are usually not covered by workers' compensation insurance. Instead, they must provide their own benefits, and they may also have to provide their own health and other forms of insurance. Those who perform gig jobs may be paid less, which matters because there is thought to be a link between higher wages and better worker safety.

In an effort to help independent contractors, the city of Seattle passed an ordinance giving them the right to collectively bargain. The theory was that allowing independent contractors to bargain with companies may help to increase wages. This may allow drivers and other gig workers to spend less time working and more time resting. Ultimately, that could help workers make ends meet without putting the public at a greater risk of getting hurt. It was also thought that the threat of independent contractors forming a union could cause companies to improve working conditions on their own.

A worker who is injured on the job may be entitled to compensation regardless of how he or she is classified. Even if an injured worker is labeled as an independent contractor, another party may still be considered negligent in causing that person's injury. Therefore, it may be possible to file a personal injury lawsuit against the manufacturer of a defective piece of equipment or machinery.

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