Are you entering the job market now? Good luck kid. In an era where bank interns die after 'working until 6am for three days' and The Guardian writes articles titled The minimum wage scam: Corporations get away with crappy wages, so government has to make up the rest, we also have crowd sourcing to ensure our wallets are so thin we have to move back to our parents house after college (if we ever left).
But wait, the latter may soon have a legal precedence set that could change crowd labour forever. If the crowdflower suit ever gets off the ground as it's currently pending motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. That's legalease for "probably not this jurisdiction". But wait, if the entire world is the labor market, what is the jurisdiction of the company that employs/crowd sources this labor - if not the city and state where the company is founded? There you go again, magical internet, avoiding all possible legal jurisdictions simply by being on the internet. Awesome super power.
The OTEY v. CROWDFLOWER class action lawsuit is very interesting. Should crowd laborers be paid as contractors or employees? If you do on-line work for CrowdFlower, you are being paid far below the lawful minimum wage for your work, even according to the company's CEO who has gone record to say that sometimes pay is as low as $2 an hour.
Under US federal law, the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. In California, CrowdFlower’s home state it's $8.00. In San Francisco, CrowdFlower’s home city it's $10.55 an hour. You're not being paid this, despite Crowdflower operating from San Francisco. Otey argues that anyone doing tasks for Crowdflower should be, like an employee, at least paid minimum wage:
We are one of the three law firms who recently filed a class action lawsuit against CrowdFlower seeking payment of minimum wages for CrowdFlower work.
The lawsuit aims not only to require CrowdFlower to pay minimum wages in the future, but also to get back pay and penalties for people who did CrowdFlower work during the last several years, but were not paid the minimum wage.
Crowdflower offered offered to pay Otey $2,148 and Greth $15,000 under a calculation of wages and liquidated damages. Linked article doesn't mention Feinstein Doyle who filed alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act by CrowdFlower, Inc..
It won't be easy for companies like Crowdflower to reclassify the task-doers as employees with all tax- and compensation-related baggage it'll entail, health care insurance and gosh, that pesky minimum wage thing too. All those things labor parties have fought so hard for since the industrial revolution began are still very hot topics, only now we have opened up whole new ways of working and jobs to be done with the global digital market. And they're all magically done away from earthly jurisdictions, sort of.
So are you an employe or an independent contractor? The latter, independent contractors, are not entitled to minimum wage or overtime pay or lunch breaks. Independent contractors cannot receive workers’ compensation or unemployment benefits. 1099 independent contractors in California also cannot sue for violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, which protects employees (not independent contractors) against unlawful harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Sounds like fun. Oh, an independent contractor should not be paid by the hour. If you're being paid by the hour, it strongly suggests that you're an employee instead. This is probably why Swiftly say that they "pay by task", while selling your tasks as hours to clients who use their services. Sneaky.