Our sister blog MediaJobsDaily did some digging into the recent news that Gawker Media has offered some of its writers full-time employment status, particularly the theory that former Gawker staffer Sheila McClear‘s request for unemployment payments following her layoff last year was the motive behind the move.
McClear did eventually get approval from the Department of Labor to claim unemployment, but only after much wrangling. Could her fight have brought Gawker Media under the DOL’s microscope?
“Companies misclassifying their workers as freelancers aren’t often happy when one freelancer applies for unemployment; ‘If a nonsalaried employee applies for benefits and is found eligible, his employer is susceptible to an audit by the Department of Labor, and could end up owing back taxes for unpaid unemployment insurance,’ wrote McClear herself in an article about the issue in the NY Post. So it’s possible that the DOL, prompted by their decision to award unemployment benefits to McClear, then began investigating (or threatening to investigate) the rest of Gawker Media’s operations.”
The blog also looked into the other piece of information unique to the story: that Gawker writers had to choose between full-time five-days-a-week employment or cutting back their freelance work to only four days a week at the company. MJD believes this change will force those who remain freelancers to seek work elsewhere, thus allowing Gawker to more easily claim that these writers are contractors, not misclassified employees. As MJD explains:
“One of the criteria used by departments of labor to determine a worker’s status is how many clients the so-called ‘independent contractor’ has. Only one client: probably a misclassified employee. Two clients: probably a contractor.
Having two clients makes you look a heck of a lot more independent than having just one.”
Makes sense to us.
Sheila McClear Takes Credit For Gawker’s W-2 Offer –MediaJobsDaily
Previously: Gawker Offers Writers Full-Time Employment