January 05, 2023

Senator Warren and Representative Bush Urge Labor Department to End Worker Misclassification, Help Ensure Independent Contractors Receive Abortion Benefits

“We urge the Department to pursue the strongest rule possible and, once finalized, engage in robust and targeted enforcement in sectors with high concentrations of vulnerable misclassified workers”

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. — United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Cori Bush (D-Mo.) sent a letter to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) in support of their October proposed rule on employee status which would help reclassify potentially thousands of misclassified workers.

“The Department of Labor’s proposed rule is a critical step towards rectifying this widespread abuse,” wrote the lawmakers. “It will bring both workers and employers much-needed clarity, and restore a commonsense standard based on legislative, judicial, and regulatory precedent. With appropriate enforcement, this rule could have far-reaching beneficial effects, particularly for the most vulnerable populations.”

In September 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Bush wrote to the CEOs of Amazon, Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Grubhub raising concerns regarding reports that their significant independent contractor workforces – primarily rideshare and delivery drivers – would be excluded from the companies’ new abortion travel reimbursement benefit because they were ineligible for employer-sponsored health care. 

Unfortunately, the companies’ responses confirmed that their independent contractors would not be eligible for the benefit. By reclassifying these workers as employees, WHD’s proposed rule change could have “far-reaching beneficial effects” for all workers, including vulnerable populations living in states with bans or restrictions on access to abortion.

“For previously misclassified workers in states that have restricted or banned abortion access since the Dobbs decision, the benefit would cushion the cost of traveling out of state to access the care they need,” wrote the lawmakers. “And for gig workers across the board, many of whom experience economic insecurity as a result of low pay and other barriers, the rights to a minimum wage, overtime pay, and employer-sponsored health care linked to employee status would help alleviate the burden of accessing abortions and other necessary medical care.”

In the letter, also signed by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), the lawmakers applaud the Department for releasing a strong proposed rule that will go far in rectifying the abuses perpetrated by these companies and their peers.

For years, Senator Warren has been a staunch advocate for working-class people and has long fought against worker misclassification and for the expansion of access to abortion care:

  • In September 2022, Senator Warren, Representative Bush, and 23 members of Congress sent letters to the CEOs of Amazon, Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Grubhub regarding reports that a new benefit – offered to their employees in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade – applies only to the companies’ employees and not to their misclassified independent contractor workforce.
  • On August 4, 2022, Senators Warren, Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), outlining concrete actions HHS can take to help meet President Biden’s goal of protecting and expanding access to medication abortion.
  • On July 29, 2022, Senators Warren and Hirono led 23 of their colleagues in a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), calling on the VA to take immediate administrative action to offer abortions and all abortion-related services to veterans and eligible dependents.
  • On July 14, 2022, Senators Warren, Cory Booker (D-N.J), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and over a dozen Senate Democrats wrote to President Biden and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, urging them to immediately declare national and public health emergencies over Americans’ access to reproductive care.
  • On June 7, 2022, Senators Warren and Murray led 23 of their Senate colleagues in a letter to President Biden urging him to immediately issue an executive order directing the federal government to develop a national plan to defend Americans’ fundamental reproductive rights, including their right to an abortion.
  • In October 2020, Senator Warren joined Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), along with a group of Senate colleagues in a letter urging U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Eugene Scalia to rescind a proposed rule regarding classification of workers as employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
  • In August 2020, Senator Warren wrote an op-ed calling for companies like Uber and Lyft to stop denying workers their rights by misclassifying them as independent contractors.
  • In April 2020, Senator Warren called for an end to worker misclassification as part of her Essential Workers Bill of Rights.