Gig workers remain at the center of a tug-of-war between labor and advocates for freedom of work choice. The companies that utilize them are constantly walking a line between independent contractor status and employee status – and the wrong choices can cost tens of thousands of dollars in fines, unpaid salaries and benefits, and reputational harm.
The workers themselves, though, when properly classified as independent contractors, too often are left in legal peril simply because there are specific regulations that govern the self-employed. How many drivers, for instance, know that their personal auto insurance likely will not cover them should they be involved in a crash while under contract? How many more know that there are specific insurance options that cover them only when they are engaged in work-related activities – therefore they only pay when they are active.
“They want flexibility but they [don’t] always understand the business consequences of a 1099,” Wendy Greenland, CEO of Openforce, an independent contractor management platform, told Modern Shipper.
Openforce works with last-mile delivery drivers as well as courier and over-the-road truck drivers – and the firms that contract with them to ensure the drivers are properly classified as 1099 workers and educates them on proper business practices. The company offers access to insurance firms, drug screening programs, business management tools and even benefits such as settlement advances and 401(k) programs.
Greenland spoke with Modern Shipper at the recent Home Delivery World 2021 conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. Auto insurance is a prime example of some of the nuances that 1099 workers often don’t fully understand, she said.
“They don’t always understand that their personal auto policies won’t cover them; they need a commercial policy,” Greenland noted.
Last month, Openforce announced IC Insure, which leverages the company’s technology platform to allow insurance brokers and agents to access the 1099 community with specific policies and coverages, including usage-based insurance.
For firms seeking 1099 workers, the platform opens doors to recruiting, onboarding, settlement, compliance and risk mitigation, including active driver motor vehicle record monitoring and safety education in addition to the new IC Insure offering.
Greenland said some of the insurance policies in the program only charge the 1099 worker when they are on dispatch, so they are never charged for periods when they are not working. This is done through Openforce’s settlement process and is another step toward ensuring the worker is properly classified, she said.
“It all comes back to how do we mitigate the risk of misclassification,” Greenland said, noting that the technology is able to more accurately track the worker’s on-duty status by tapping into the dispatch process and relaying that information to insurers and companies.
Openforce also offers access to medical, dental and vision policies through group rate programs as well as tax services and a marketing platform for 1099 workers to grow their businesses.
Greenland said the 1099 model is the best way for entrepreneurs to grow a business, but it is a model that is ripe for illegalities if the worker is not properly classified.
“There is a relationship between us and the driver. There is an agreement between the contracting company and the driver,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is provide our IC recruit platform that allows them to market their business to more than one company.”
Greenland noted that companies sometimes get into misclassification issues when workers are offered cash advances. She said that means they are technically employees and not 1099 workers, but Openforce is able to offer this benefit and shield the contracting company.
Openforce has approximately 240,000 independent contractors on its platform with about 50,000 active at any given time.
“They chose this model. They want this, so we try to give them the tools,” Greenland said. “They want that flexibility, you just have to give them some help.”