While an increase in online shopping and decrease in in-person shopping may mean the end of dubious holiday traditions like “Black Friday Brawls”, retail work could continue to be more dangerous and risky for workers.
The increase in online shopping has also coincided with the “gig economy.” Whereas online shopping is driven by technology, the gig economy is enabled by technology and political decision to deny gig workers basic employment protections. I’ve picked on Amazon in the past, but even Target has gotten in on the misclassification gig. Target contracts its delivery workers through Shipt who classifies their workers as contractors ineligible for benefits. Contractors for Amazon and Target perform the same work that is done by employees at other companies.
The pandemic accelerated these trends in retail employment. But the acceleration of online shopping has revealed some new risks to workplace safety. The Hy-Vee store by our Lincoln office has moved online pick up to the south edge of the parking lot to accommodate the increase in online order pick-ups. Online pick-ups could previously be made right by the store.
So in order for workers to deliver groceries for pickup at the new store, employees need to move items across parking lot traffic, then uphill into a temporary storage space for pick and then come back across the parking lot into the store. I think arrangement is going to create problems in cold and wet weather as well as creating hazards during darkness.
I am not singling out Hy-Vee, I assume other bricks and mortar stores are making similar adjustments. All institutions have been forced to improvise during the pandemic. But if improvisation comes at the expense of workplace safety, at the very least workers should have basic employment protections. Ideally workers should have unions to have a voice in workplace safety during the pandemic and beyond.
Nearly 13 million Americans work more than one job. Some people also take on temporary jobs in retail, warehousing and delivery during the holiday season. Here are some reminders about holiday work to protect yourself and your rights to benefits such as workers’ compensation.
Temporary jobs tend to have higher injury rates – Studies show that new employees are more likely to get injured on the job. If you are starting an unfamiliar job, you are more likely to get hurt. Don’t worry temporary and new employees can still claim workers’ compensation.
Lost-time/temporary disability based on wages for job where you are injured – Workers compensation pays temporary disability when you miss work because of an injury. The problem with getting hurt at a part-time job is that if you are unable to work because of that injury, you are only paid temporary disability based on the part-time job wages. You can’t be compensated by workers’ compensation for lost income from full-time or other jobs unless you can argue that your job is seasonal. It is hard to prove season employment under Nebraska workers’ compensation law.
But employees can be creative in adding benefits to increase temporary disability. Permanent disability is paid assuming a 40-hour week under the Nebraska workers’ compensation act. (See Neb. Rev. Stat. 48-121(4))
How an injury at a part-time job can affect employment at your full-time job – Some employers are more willing to accommodate employees who were hurt on the job. If you get hurt at a holiday job, your full-time employer may not let you come back to work unless you have no restrictions. That is a questionable practice under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Are you an employee or independent contractor?– The answer to this question is that if you are working a holiday job, you are an employee. Package delivery is a growing job with the expansion of online shopping? Many delivery services try to classify their workers as contractors as a way to avoid paying workers’ compensation. If you get injured as a contractor working on a delivery job, it is very likely you can bring a case for benefits under the Nebraska workers’ compensation act. But it will likely require help from an attorney to get those benefits.