51 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2020
Date Written: March 1, 2020
Legislation lags behind technology all too often. While trillions of dollars are exchanged in online transactions — safely, cheaply, and instantaneously — workers still must wait two weeks to a month to receive payments from their employers. In the modern economy, workers are effectively lending money to their employers, as they wait for earned wages to be paid. The same worker who taps a credit card to pay for groceries in semi-automated checkout lines depends on dated payroll systems that only transfer payments on a “payday.” Workers, especially those living paycheck-to-paycheck, are hard-pressed to meet their daily needs and turn to expensive, short-term credit — notably, payday lenders. These credit solutions may address a real need, but they also exact a heavy price, often culminating in endless debt spirals. So, why does the payday still exist? This Article studies various explanations — economic, historical, behavioral, and legal. It concludes that the payday is a software problem, not a hardware problem. The hardware — i.e., money and payroll technology — is here; indeed, gig economy workers in developing countries will often be paid more quickly than an American employee for the same work. What holds us back is our legal software: Dated Eisenhower-era legislation that failed to anticipate technological change. Surprisingly, even pro-worker legislation, such as minimum wage laws, inadvertently encourage the practice. By revealing the overlooked and dated legal infrastructure that sustains the payday, the Article suggests a path for legal reform. Daily streams of payment to workers are feasible, practical, and far more efficient than most people realize. A focused reform could effectively bring an end to the puzzling and pernicious practice of having workers lend money to their employers while they wait for their payday.
Keywords: Employment Contracts, Contracts, Technology, Employment Law, Pay Frequency, Law and Economics
JEL Classification: j3, j31, j32, j33, k12, m52
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation