Janet Kus, President and Co-founder of MTI America
Transportation is a critical, and often under-valued, component of the workers’ compensation industry. By providing injured workers with timely transport to their appointments, drivers help to ensure that they receive the care they need while eliminating a key barrier to achieve successful return-to-work outcomes. Independent contractors have long been an essential component to service delivery, however, recent legislative developments coupled with the ever-changing guidelines and health concerns surrounding COVID-19, are threatening this pivotal resource.
Independent contractors are especially important during this COVID-19 pandemic. With 2.3 million U.S. cases of COVID-19 confirmed by the CDC as of June 23, 2020, the virus remains a very real concern for professionals required to interact with the public. The simple act of transporting someone from point A to B can become a reliable lifeline to a struggling injured worker during these uncertain times. Moreover, having the same driver for repeated transports provides a consistency and personalization that rideshare companies cannot guarantee.
Recent legislative developments have many workers’ compensation professionals questioning the future of transportation services. Both the California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5, a freelancer law) and the upheaval of COVID-19 have left many concerned about moving forward with certainty. AB5 is making many workers’ compensation professionals wonder whether rideshare apps may be the wave of the future for transporting injured workers.
Rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft, which have built their entire platform around gig workers, have stated their disapproval for the law and are working to have their workforce exempt from it altogether. This approach has already placed AB5 on the legislation ballot for review.
But while the debate to overturn AB5 looms in the future, independent contractors — especially those not connected to large entities like Uber and Lyft — are rethinking how the law affects them. In response, many are forming their own companies in order to become business-to-business partners vs independent contractors.
How the gig worker bill may affect you
AB5 went into effect on January 1, 2020 in California. It requires companies that hire independent contractors to reclassify them as employees, with few exceptions. The bill was originally touted as a workers’ rights bill that was expected to provide many more employee jobs, as well as to offer workers better benefits and protections, including access to minimum wage, health insurance, workers’ compensation, breaks, and other benefits afforded to employees. Instead, many freelancers are being terminated because companies don’t want to be forced to hire their ad hoc contractors as staff.
Other states are addressing the worker classification debate, as well. Some have implemented the “ABC test” to help determine whether workers are employees or contractors. This test classifies workers based on three points:
- Is the worker free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work?
- Is the worker performing work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business?
- Is the worker customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business similar to the work being performed?
This is a complicated issue that varies by state. Learn more about the details of this bill from the IRS here.
In 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 55 million people in the U.S. are “gig workers”. This accounts for approximately 34% of the U.S. workforce. This is projected to increase to 43% percent in 2020.
With COVID-19 taking center stage, both contractors and employers need to stay on top of gig worker legislation. State governments often try to push through bills like AB5 when they think no one will notice. This issue is important to everyone because independent contractors allow business to ramp up during busy periods and pull back during less profitable times. Contractors fill that gap and may prevent staff from being laid off in a slow-down. Businesses need the ability to scale up or down as needed to prosper.
About Janet Kus
Janet Kus is president and co-founder of MTI America, initially incorporated as Medi-Trans Inc. in 1992. Janet began her career in the workers’ compensation industry as a catastrophic nurse case manager at Liberty Mutual. She received her nursing degree at Erlanger Nursing School / Chattanooga Medical College, now the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. As president of MTI, Janet ensures that the company stays true to its original commitment: to provide exceptional customer service and compassionate care to injured employees while taking work off the desks of case managers and adjusters with best-in-class ancillary solutions designed specifically for the workers compensation industry.
About MTI America
MTI America delivers ancillary healthcare solutions to workers’ compensation patients, adjusters and case managers. MTI’s translators collectively speak more than 250 languages, and many are certified in medical or legal communications and are therefore better qualified to guide injured workers through their healthcare experience and educate them about the workers’ compensation system. Seventy-five percent of MTI employees are bi-lingual, so they bring an inherent cultural competence to the table as well. Headquartered in Pompano Beach, Florida. To learn more about MTI America’s professional language and other services, please visit https://www.mtiamerica.com/.
MTI America is a WorkCompWire ad partner.
This is not a paid placement.