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On Demand Audio

Basics of the “Gig Economy”: Law, Policy, and the Uncertain Status of On-Demand Employees

(441 reviews)

Produced on November 11, 2016

$ 59 Labor & Employment and Science & Technology In Stock

Course Information

Time 61 minutes
Difficulty Beginner

Course Description

Not a day goes by without reference to the “gig economy” and the transformation of consumption and work that it has (or soon will) cause. Debate rages over what the gig economy is, and whether it benefits individuals and the economy. On one side, entrepreneurs and high-profile corporate officers wax poetic about using revolutionary technology to catalyze economic growth and exploit the untapped potential of the workforce, giving opportunities to all those marginalized by outdated industrial models. Critics decry the race to the bottom and calculated efforts by profit-driven companies to accumulate wealth off the underpaid labor of contingent workers.

In the last five years, legislatures, regulators, and the legal profession have begun grappling with the fundamental questions posed by the gig economy. How is it different from what came before? Does it require different regulatory approaches, or a different body of law? What is at stake if the government intervenes, and if it does not?

This course, presented by Alek Felstiner, an employment and labor attorney at Levy Ratner, P.C., offers an introduction to the legal issues implicated by the gig economy, the central questions dominating policy debate, recent developments in litigation, and the competing proposals for regulatory response that will likely shape the future of this emerging sector. 

Learning Objectives:
  1. Identify and explain the nature and implications of “employee” status under the law
  2. Gain familiarity with the gig economy and what does and does not differentiate it from other industrial models
  3. Become current on recent litigation developments
  4. Explain the values and principles underlying debates over how to regulate the gig economy, and review ideas coming down the pipeline


Aleksandr L. Felstiner

Levy Ratner, P.C.

Alek Felstiner’s mother was one of the nation’s first professors of women’s history, and she taught him to “question the official narrative of what happened in the past and to resist patriarchy.” Alek put her advice into practice in college, where he became a volunteer organizer with local community groups and unions. It was the springboard for his first career – as a UNITE HERE staff member in San Francisco, where Alek organized hotel boycotts, trained workers and ran strategic campaigns against hotel chains that mistreated workers.

Working in the labor movement was Alek’s first exposure to lawyers, and it changed his career path: “I never considered law until I realized lawyers could directly help workers achieve their goals,” he observes. “I saw lawyers really engage with union campaigns and help find creative ways to fight the bosses. Labor lawyers played a key role in many of the victories we achieved, and that seemed like a place I could fit in.”

At University of California Berkeley Law School, Alek found a community of public interest lawyers whose values mirrored his own. He served as Associate Editor and Articles Editor of the Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law and as a counselor at the East Bay Workers Rights Clinic. After graduation, Alek served as an Honors Attorney at the United States Department of Labor in Washington, DC and later clerked for the Honorable Barbara Jacobs Rothstein in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Relocating to New York in 2014, Alek L. Felstiner joined Levy Ratner because he was looking for “a place where the attorneys were, and saw themselves, as part of the movement.” Levy Ratner included “former organizers with direct experience working with unions, people from civil rights backgrounds who are social justice activists first and lawyers second,” Alek says. “I wanted to be somewhere doing ambitious, aggressive work in the labor movement, and that’s what I saw in Levy Ratner.”

Alek is involved in all aspects of Levy Ratner’s labor and employment practice, including representing unions and Taft-Hartley funds, as well as individual employees in arbitration, litigation and proceedings before the NLRB. “We’re not just going in to make sure that the contract language is correct,” Alek explains. “We do everything we can to achieve justice for working people. That means participating in campaign strategy, organizing, negotiations, litigation, direct action – whatever will help our clients accomplish their goals. It’s what a labor lawyer should be.”


Tara B.

Excellent - clear and well-paced

Hale J.



I found this lecture highly educational.

Martha A.

Excellent presentations and timely topic!

Thomas P.

Excellent practical info

Kevin O.

Good Presentation

Jeffrey K.

Interesting new developments....

Brendan S.

Clear, comprehensive and well-presented. Also, interesting. I enjoyed this program.

Elizabeth L.

Best program so far.

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