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Opinion

Readers React: Nothing prevents bosses from giving employees freedoms similar to ‘gig’ workers

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Mark Hylkema, a barber and co-owner of Stew’s Barber Shop in Ladera Ranch, had to hire and give employee status to barbers working on contract.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I am a lawyer who represents many low-wage workers unlawfully classified as independent contractors. (Re “Are you an employee or a contractor? Carpenters, strippers and dog walkers now face that question,” Feb. 23)

Employee status is not incompatible with flexibility, choice or innovation. The California Supreme Court’s Dynamex decision does not mandate a set schedule, an end to worker autonomy or a stifling of creativity. This is a false narrative advanced by business owners who have passed the true costs of employment off their books and onto workers and society.

Being an employee matters when you are injured or disabled on the job, or harassed or discriminated against. It’s one thing to compare a single worker’s paycheck before and after being classified as an employee, but it’s better to offer an example of an employee who benefited from healthcare, family leave rights or Social Security contributions.

This broad view of societal values is reflected in long-standing public policies favoring employment status. These values have been eroded by independent contractor schemes.

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Christian Schreiber, San Francisco

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To the editor: The hair stylist in this article and the barber shop that provides her space have been forced into employee-employer relationship regardless of their wishes. The stylist is losing pay and is now restricted from writing off legitimate expenses.

The “employer” now has more responsibility, taxes and administrative costs as well as less flexibility with employees. Now, California may impose costly restrictions on an otherwise functioning entrepreneurial relationship between legally operating, tax-paying parties.

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The same happened to me as a licensed loan officer some eight years ago. Although I am essentially a self-employed, commissioned contractor, I am restricted by lending industry standards as a W2 employee.

Ask any certified public accountant about submitting legitimate tax write-offs, and he or she will tell you that the W2 employee is greatly disadvantaged. I have found my employee status to be a disincentive in investing in my business.

Christopher Reid, Long Beach

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To the editor: A “gig” originally meant a job as a musician, and this may be important to remember as state legislators try to parse who is genuinely gigging and who is just being taken advantage of.

Someone who truly gigs brings a unique set of creative skills to different workplaces. They haul in their equipment, set up their space and strut their stuff. Then they leave and, if they’re both lucky and talented, go on to do it again someplace else.

The freedom to work how they like and when they like is instrumental (sorry) to their craft. That means musicians and music teachers, dancers and dance teachers are giggers who can be honestly afforded independent contractor status.

Folks driving a truck or delivering food, however, are not pursuing an art form that requires autonomy; what they need and deserve are employment protections. Let’s leave the true giggers alone and end the vocational appropriation of that word.

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Linda Silva, Culver City

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