Michigan becomes first state in nation to develop comprehensive regulations for autonomous vehicle research, development, use

In a move that will position the state to become the epicenter for driverless vehicle technology, Gov. Rick Snyder today signed legislation into law making Michigan the first state in the nation to establish comprehensive regulations for the testing, use and eventual sale of autonomous vehicle technology.

“Michigan is the global center for automotive technology and development, having transformed the way the world moves for more than 100 years,” Snyder said. “By establishing guidelines and standards for self-driving vehicles, we’re continuing that tradition of excellence in a way that protects the public’s safety while at the same time allows the mobility industry to grow without overly burdensome regulations.”

The new law, signed by Snyder at 11 a.m. at the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, more clearly defines the circumstances of how self-driving vehicles can be legally used on public roadways. The new law also allows:
• Testing of vehicles without steering wheels, pedals or needed human control;
• Automotive and technology companies to operate self-driving vehicle ride-sharing services; and
• Self-driving vehicles to be sold for public use once the technology has been tested and certified.

In addition, the new law will establish the Michigan Council on Future Mobility, an arm of the Michigan Department of Transportation that will recommend policies to set industry standards. It also will regulate connected vehicle networks and how traffic data, such as vehicle crashes, will be collected and shared.

“This legislation keeps Michigan at the forefront of a renaissance in automotive technology,” said Kirk T. Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation. “The law helps government further support the industry while not getting in the way.”

The forward-thinking legislation is the result of public and private collaborative efforts to ensure any new policy would not impact the autonomous vehicle industry’s ability to evolve safely and in an atmosphere that encourages increased research and investment. The partners who helped inform the final legislation include Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), U.S., Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Toyota Motor Corp. and Google Inc., as well as ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft.

Michigan is a national leader in connected and automated vehicle projects, surpassing states like California, Florida and Nevada that have yet to establish more comprehensive laws regarding self-driving vehicle technology and their use on public roads. Among these projects is the state-of-the-art American Center for Mobility; the first phase of which is in development

Located at the 335-acre historic Willow Run site in Ypsilanti Township, the Center will serve as a research, testing and self-certification facility for self-driving and connected vehicle technologies that are being developed by private industry, academia and government. It is the second purpose-built facility in the state, the first being Mcity, a smaller proving ground that mimics real-world situations and is located in Ann Arbor on the University of Michigan’s campus.

“Our leadership in the automotive industry is recognized globally and these new regulations are another example of how Michigan is forward-thinking when it comes to innovation in the mobility sector,” said Steve Arwood, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “By creating a more in-depth framework for how self-driving vehicle technology can be researched, tested and used, we’re building a structured plan that takes into account the needs of private industry looking to invest in research and the development of this technology.”

Pure Michigan is a brand representing business, talent and tourism initiatives across Michigan. These efforts are driven by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which serves as the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business growth, jobs and opportunity with a focus on helping grow Michigan’s economy.

For more on the MEDC and its initiatives, visit MichiganBusiness.org. For Michigan travel news, updates and information, visit michigan.org. Michigan residents interested in seeking employment with any of Michigan’s growing companies should check mitalent.org, where more than 88,000 jobs are currently available in a variety of industries.

New gun policy by Uber reignites discussion on whether its on-demand workers are independent contractors or employees

Detroit, Mich. – June 29, 2015 – With Uber’s new no-firearms policy prohibiting both drivers and riders from possessing a firearm of any kind in the vehicle, the network transportation service is facing more questions as to how far the company and other app-driven companies in the on-demand economy can go in controlling the behavior of independent contractors without running afoul of the law. Kellen Myers, an attorney with Detroit-based management side labor and employment law firm Nemeth Law, P.C., says the key issue with Uber, already embroiled in a multi-front battle defending its classification of its drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, is the new gun policy regulates a driver’s otherwise lawful behavior.

“The recent change by Uber was prompted, in part, by an incident in late April where an Uber driver in Chicago shot and wounded a gunman who opened fire on a crowd of people,” Myers said. “The Uber driver’s actions were ultimately considered lawful because he had a concealed carry permit and acted in defense of himself and others.”

Prior to this incident, Uber did not have a weapons restriction policy of any kind.

“The new policy by Uber is noteworthy in how it regulates a driver’s otherwise lawful behavior. For example, under Michigan’s concealed handgun law, an Uber driver would be permitted to carry a concealed weapon if properly licensed,” Myers said. “With Uber’s policy change, the driver is now restricted from doing so or risk losing his or her ability to use Uber’s software platform.”

Generally, courts and government agencies look to the amount of control a company exerts over a worker to determine whether that worker is properly classified as an independent contractor or an employee. In essence, the more control exerted by the company the less the worker appears like an independent contractor.

“Improper classification of workers by employers can lead to significant liability and bring unwanted lawsuits or agency investigations,” Myers said. “Uber’s policy change and legal battles have brought more attention to employer use of independent contractors overall and in the on-demand worker economy. Employers need to be particularly aware of their use of these workers and craft an appropriate business strategy taking worker issues into consideration.”

Myers says companies that plan on using on-demand workers as a business strategy need to consider the following:
 The pros and cons of using an independent contractor/on-demand worker versus a full or part-time employee, including wages, benefits, taxes, insurance, the potential of misclassifying the individuals and, from a talent perspective, whether a company can grow and sustain itself and build value using an on-demand worker model.
 Conducting an audit to insure the individual is properly classified as an on-demand worker/independent contractor.
 Making sure the audit conducted looks at applicable classification tests the U.S. Department of Labor uses, as well as the Internal Revenue Service and the State of Michigan.
 Involving a corporate accountant, corporate attorney and employment attorney before adopting a specific employment model to insure all bases are covered.

About Nemeth Law, P.C.
Nemeth Law specializes in employment litigation, traditional labor law and management consultation for private and public sector employers. It is the largest woman-owned law firm in Michigan to exclusively represent management in the prevention, resolution and litigation of labor and employment disputes.

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Nemeth Law attorney looks at on-demand workers; workforce trend or business model that’s here to stay?

Detroit, Mich. – April 20, 2015 – Whether one has hopped into an Uber car or not, the relatively new taxi service company has caused some to slam on the brakes when considering its on-demand worker foundation. While some view the company as disruptive to the workforce in terms of its non-employment strategy, others see the use of on-demand personnel as the labor market and technology pushing the boundaries of traditional notions of employer and employee.
Patricia Nemeth, founder of Detroit-based management side labor and employment law firm Nemeth Law, P.C., says the taxi company’s business model, one increasingly used by other emerging and often app-based companies as well, is analogous to what some industries have been doing for years – albeit on a much larger scale.

“Hospitals and nursing homes have used ‘contingent’ workers to supplement their full and part-time workforce for years,” Nemeth said. “While Uber is not using its drivers to supplement staffing, the concept of an on-demand employee is not new.”

Employers and on-demand contingent workers enjoy this flexible employment relationship for a variety of reasons. While some Uber drivers may work several jobs to make ends meet, others moonlight as drivers to make extra money in addition to income from their full-time job.

“One of the criticisms of allowing Uber to operate solely by on-demand workers is the organization is not required to offer benefits,” Nemeth said. “With the Affordable Care Act, employees can buy their own health insurance. Yet this cost savings has some workers questioning if the Uber business model is legal.”

Nemeth notes there have been several high-profile lawsuits against companies utilizing on-demand workers. For example, app-based companies such as Handy, Uber and Lyft are dealing with lawsuits challenging the classification of these workers as non-employees. If they are successful, it may put a quick halt to the rise in such services, as well as the use of independent contractors by these types of companies.

“Uber has brought attention to the use of an on-demand workforce and the success it can create for an organization; but it has also brought attention to the pitfalls companies may run into by attempting to utilize a workforce without the overhead of regular employees,” Nemeth said.

Nemeth said companies that plan on using on-demand workers as a business strategy need to consider the following:
 The pros and cons of using an independent contractor/on-demand worker versus a full-time employee including wages, benefits, taxes, insurance, the potential of misclassifying the individuals and, from a talent perspective, whether a company can grow and sustain itself and build value using an on-demand worker model.
 Conducting an audit to insure the individual is properly classified as an on-demand worker/independent contractor.
 Making sure the audit conducted looks at applicable classification tests the U.S. Department of Labor uses, as well as the Internal Revenue Service and the State of Michigan.
 Involving a corporate accountant, corporate attorney and employment attorney before adopting a specific employment model to insure all bases are covered.

About Nemeth Law, P.C.
Nemeth Law specializes in employment litigation, traditional labor law and management consultation for private and public sector employers. It is the largest woman-owned law firm in Michigan to exclusively represent management in the prevention, resolution and litigation of labor and employment disputes.