Hy-Vee Stores ended 24-hour operations in most of their stores throughout the Midwest . Did Hy-Vee’s move help workplace safety for their workers?
24-hour retail and workplace violence
Retail workers are increasingly subjected to violence on the job. Violence at stores increases during overnight hours and in stores where alcohol is sold. Some police departments believe 24-hour retail establishments are public safety risks. So by closing at midnight, Hy-Vee may be lowering the risk of injury from violence for their overnight employees.
However Hy-Vee failed to mention worker safety as a reason for ending 24 hour operations. (The reasons sound like a lot of corporate speak for reducing staff.) In my view, Hy-Vee deserves criticism for some workplace safety practices. I noticed Hy-Vee has implemented a light duty program where injured employees literally sit and/or stand and do nothing. In my experience, these programs are borderline abusive and usually force employees to return to work too soon.
Online shopping and the gig economy
Customer convenience drove the expansion of 24-hour retailing. But many shoppers skip the store all together for the convenience of online shopping and delivery.
Online retail has increased warehousing and delivery jobs that have safety risks of their own. Companies looking to save money contract out delivery to gig economy companies like Shipt and Door Dash Shipt and Door Dash classify their workers as contractors. These contractors lack employment protections like workers’ compensation. California recently enacted Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) to extend employment protections to gig economy workers. California codified the employee-friendly ABC test in AB5. New Jersey and New York are looking at following California’s lead by classifying gig economy workers as employees rather than independent contractors.
Gig economy workers in Nebraska
Nebraska lawmakers have remained silent on whether gig economy workers should be defined as employees or independent contractors. Our state’s workers’ compensation law uses a more employer-friendly “economic reality” test to decide whether a worker is an employee or contractor.
But even using the economic reality test, the Nebraska Supreme Court defined taxi drivers as employees rather than contractors for the purposes of workers compensation. Under that case law, I believe you can argue credibly that most gig economy employees should be deemed employees under the Nebraska Workers Compensation Act.