The typical nine-to-five job, exemplified by traditional office spaces, steady incomes, and comfortable retirements, is fundamentally shifting. Technological innovation, necessity, and the human yearning for autonomy has forged a new economic reality: the gig economy. Theoretically, the gig economy facilitates individuals’ abilities to make money and preserve personal freedom while permitting companies to categorize workers as independent contractors, not employees. The ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft notably utilize this model in treating their drivers as independent contractors. But this choice has sparked outrage, legislation, and lawsuits by advocates arguing that such drivers are not independent contractors but employees under the law. The controversy unearths the tension between preserving traditional employee classifications versus adapting to the economic reality of work in the modern era.

This Comment explores the gig economy’s rise in California, focusing on the spate of litigation disputing whether app-based Uber and Lyft drivers are employees or independent contractors. The ongoing conflict demonstrates how the gig economy upsets traditional notions undergirding employer–employee relationships and seemingly settled agency law paradigms. Using California as a bellwether, this Comment assesses the gig economy’s impact not only on workers and companies, but also on deeply-seated presumptions of what earning a living looks like in America.



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