Gov. DeSantis signs measure clearing legal questions around protecting gig workers
In this April 9, 2020, file photo, a construction worker wears a protective mask during the coronavirus pandemic as he unloads a truck standing in front of a sign reminding people to stay 6 feet apart, in downtown Miami. There's been a spike of new infections among construction workers in Austin, Texas, where that sector recently returned to work. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

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SB 542 is one of several bills lawmakers hope will codify lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a measure to clarify the relationship between businesses and independent contractors during a state of emergency.

Under the proposal (SB 542), signed by the Republican Governor on Tuesday, businesses can support independent contractors during a state of emergency — such as a pandemic or a hurricane — without fear of being accused of an improper employee-employer relationship. The measure takes effect July 1.

The measure would create a new law that would define an “engaged individual” as someone “who provides a good or service to a business or on behalf of a business and who is remunerated for the good or service, regardless of the individual’s classification as an employee or independent contractor.” Under the bill, anyone compensated by a business would fall into that “engaged individual category.”

It also outlines several situations that can’t be used as evidence against a business in a lawsuit over lost or unclaimed wages, workers’ compensation benefits, employee benefits, and more. Providing financial help to someone who can’t work because of a health or safety concern; providing benefits related to health and safety (such as cleaning supplies, PPE, and medical tests); training related to health and safety; or any legal directive during a state of emergency cannot be used to establish an employer-employee relationship.

Doral Republican Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez is the bill sponsor.

“Companies would be able to provide these types of items to their independent contractors without creating a situation where they would be violating any laws,” Rodriguez told Senators in March.

Gig work can include anything from driving for ride-share companies, temporary employment situations, selling goods and services online, or freelance work.

According to CareerSource Florida, the gig economy has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic. But a lack of state-level monitoring and varied definitions make it hard to track just how big it’s gotten. According to CareerSource, some estimates say 30-40% of workers participate in the gig economy.

CNBC reports that the United States is home to over 10 million independent contractors.

The bill is one of many motivated by lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. In some instances, businesses wished to provide masks, hand sanitizer, and other supplies to contractors, but feared the offering could pose legal problems.

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Renzo Downey and Daniel Figueroa IV contributed to this report.

Staff Reports



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