For State Laws that Gig Companies Lobbied For, the Definition of “Work Time” Is Still Utterly Confusing
Austin Musk 22 Apr 2022

For State Laws that Gig Companies Lobbied For, the Definition of “Work Time” Is Still Utterly Confusing

When is a gig worker working? Is it only when they’re driving with people or goods in their car? What about time when they’re on their way to a pickup, especially if it’s in a different neighborhood or city? And what about so-called ‘idle time,’ when a worker is available to accept a job?

The answer, if you look closely at the state-level laws in place in California and Washington, is: all of them, maybe… sometimes? The law has effectively equivocated by using different definitions for ‘working time’ for different purposes, and in different states. As a result, this has created a labyrinth of laws that gig workers need to navigate to understand what they’re entitled to.

There are several other issues with these laws, such as Washington’s preemption of local laws on gig workers, the poor state of healthcare benefits, and California requiring a supermajority to amend its law. But in this article, we’ll investigate some of these big discrepancies in the way that ‘working time’ is defined across and within these laws.

A Brief Breakdown of Work Time

Researchers have already documented the different components of work time for active drivers (once they mark that they are “Online” on their app). For example, in order for Seattle to set minimum pay standards for rideshare companies in 2020, it commissioned an academic study of rideshare drivers and their effective pay. We can glean a lot of interesting statistics from it. As expected, nearly half of drivers’ time is spent in passenger time, or time when the passenger is physically in their car. The other half of the time is formed by dispatch time (when a driver has accepted a trip and is en route to a pickup) and platform time (when a driver is available but in between trips).

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