Suppressing the Mischief: New Work, Old Problems

TitleSuppressing the Mischief: New Work, Old Problems
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsBernt, Lisa J.
JournalNortheastern University Law Journal
Date Published2014///
Keywordscontracts without guaranteed hours, employee, employment, employment law, labor, precarious work, purposive, work

Increasing numbers of individuals are working in what have been described as nonstandard, contingent, or precarious relationships. These new arrangements force some difficult questions for labor law: Do these nonstandard types of work fit into the current regulatory scheme? If so, how? More fundamentally, what is work? What kind of work raises the concerns that labor law is meant to address? This paper discusses crowd work and recent developments in volunteerism as illustrations of arrangements that call for a fresh look at the way we identify workers who benefit from labor law protection. It then outlines a boundaried purposive approach to labor law coverage, one that first looks at broader purposes of labor law to decide whether a worker belongs in that protective realm, and then moves to examine the specific regulatory purpose at issue. This method widens potential application of some workplace laws, yet still limits those admitted into the labor law domain to those in economically dependent relationships that give rise to the mischief at which workplace regulation is aimed.