It’s tough to be a contract worker. Their hours and income are often unpredictable. They don’t get full benefits and they even have to follow a different tax filing scheme than full-time employees—but Facebook wants to change that. Recently, Facebook offered contract workers benefits similar to that of full-time employees.
The employees will receive $15 an hour, 15 days of paid leave, and financial support for workers with newborns. However, according to The Verge, contractors working with Facebook have to be based in the United States and have at least 25 employees. This could help put Americans back to work and stop the practice of hiring offshore workers specifically to monitor content. According to Wired, Facebook and several other social media sites hire offshore workers for below market rates—as little as $312 a month—to monitor content being posted.
What caused Facebook to give its contract workers near-equal footing with their own employees? The law for contract workers is different than that of employees. The state of California in particular separates the two. “California’s wage and hour laws (e.g., minimum wage, overtime, meal periods and rest breaks, etc.), and anti-discrimination and retaliation laws protect employees, but not independent contractors,” says the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.
Another possible reason could be a recent case regarding competition for tech workers. Some tech companies were sued in 2014 by the United States Department of Justice for a form of collusion—in particular, agreeing not to recruit from each other. While this practice was questionable in a legal sense, some companies punished workers by suing them, which is illegal in the state of California, where many tech companies set up shop.
Many tech workers, according to The Center for Investigative Reporting, came from abroad on short-term visas. Since many of these workers have limited knowledge of United States labor law and also could not afford an attorney, it became difficult for tech workers to win these cases if they quit their jobs. Many employers have worked noncompete clauses into the contracts that are signed by these workers, thus finding a loophole around the California law that prohibits noncompete clauses.
Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), Sheryl Sandberg, hoped to get more contract workers on board with their generous benefits. “I am pleased to announce that we are implementing a new set of standards on benefits for contractors and vendors who support Facebook in the US and do a substantial amount of work with us. These benefits include a $15 minimum wage, minimum 15 paid days off for holidays, sick time and vacation, and for those workers who don’t receive paid parental leave, a $4,000 new child benefit for new parents,” Sandberg said in a blog post.
Microsoft, Apple and Google have done similar changes. Microsoft, in particular, did it for their suppliers while Google hired an in-house security team last year (as opposed to contracting a third party). Apple also converted their security guards to full-time employees as well.
Does this mean that other tech companies will follow suit? Considering these are some of the biggest names in the tech industry, contract workers have a lot to look forward to. Although contract workers are often promised full-time work if they perform well, the incentive to perform well as a contract worker is inhibited by unpredictable income, low pay, and unpredictable hours. With these tech companies giving contract workers generous benefits as if they were full-time workers, it could become the rule rather than the exception.