New York City recently implemented a $17 per hour minimum wage for drivers for riding hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. I wouldn’t expect similar measures exapnding wage and hour and/or workers’ compensation to gig economy workers in Omaha or Lincoln for two main reasons.
Local governments in Nebraska have their powers limited by the state
The first hurdle to a city minimum wage or city workers’ comepnsation laws in Lincoln or Omaha is the state constitution. Nebraska courts have held that only the state can regulate the employee-employer relationship unless the legislature authorizes a city or county to do so. The state has authorized cities and counties to draft civil rights ordinances. Omaha and Lincoln have human rights commissions similar to the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission.
But the Legislature has not authorized local governments to implement their own minimum wage or workers’ compensation laws. No such legislation was introduced to that effect this year in Nebraska. In neighboring Missouri, the Missouri legislature reversed an attempt by the City of St. Louis to increase the minimum wage in that city above the state minimum wage. In short, I believe it would be unlikely that Nebraska would authorize local governments to implement their own workers’ compensation and wage laws in the near future.
Even if cities in Nebraska could enact wage and hour and workers’ compensation ordinances, it seems unlikely that cities would do so to cover gig economy workers.
There doesn’t appear to much political will among cities in Nebraska – even in Democratic-controlled Lincoln – to expand employee protections to ride hailing drivers. In fact, the Lincoln City council voted in 2017 to exempt Uber and Lyft drivers from the same licensing requirements as taxi drivers.
In fairness, Lincoln had a long history of being poorly served by a taxi cab monopoly. Complaints about regulatory fairness from former monopolists fell on deaf ears. But Lincoln’s taxi monopoly was broken in 2012 before the rise of ride hailing apps. Lincoln and Omaha lack an organized voice for drivers like they have in New York City. Without such a voice, worker classification issues among urban professional drivers will likely continue to be unheard at a state and local level in Nebraska.