U.S. Labor Secretary Says Gig-Worker Mislabeling Is Major Issue

The misclassification of employment as “gig work” is a major economic issue that the U.S. Labor Department is working to address, according to Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.

“Misclassified employees often are denied access to critical benefits and protections like overtime, minimum wage, paid leave, unemployment insurance,” Walsh said at an online business-journalism conference Monday, calling it one of the “most serious issues” in the jobs market. “It undermines our economy. We have some work to do in this space.”

Walsh declined to specify concrete steps but said “we’re going to have many conversations as we think about employees and making sure that they get treated fairly.”

Walsh said in an interview with Reuters last month that many gig workers, such as those with ride-share company Uber Technologies Inc. and meal delivery services, should be reclassified as employees to gain benefits and greater protections. That would mean companies employing these workers would shoulder more of the cost of employment.

Walsh also waded into the debate that souped-up unemployment benefits amid the pandemic were keeping workers from seeking employment. Echoing comments by President Joe Biden, Walsh said the benefits aren’t a deterrent and that people generally want to be back to work.

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