Demystifying Flexibility, Exposing the Algorithmic Boss: A Note on the First Italian Case Classifying a (Food-Delivery) Platform Worker as an Employee
Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal
11 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2021 Last revised: 10 Oct 2022
Date Written: 2021
In November 2020, the Palermo Tribunal reinstated a Glovo rider and reclassified him as a full-time, permanent employee, to be remunerated according to the applicable sectoral collective bargaining agreement (for the service sector), on the grounds that his autonomy was merely notional, since the platform could organize the execution of work and discipline noncompliance with rigorous instructions issued through the internal booking system. The judge ordered compensation for wage differentials and reimbursement for the unpaid time the worker spent waiting for orders.
This case is groundbreaking for two main reasons. First, it results in direct, full recognition of the existence of an employment relationship, proving that current legal categories and concepts have not been superseded by allegedly modern business models. Second, this case reinforces a trend towards the Europeanization of social issues, particularly as regards jurisprudential methods for determining who is an employee and, more broadly, as regards the uniform and effective application of EU policy.
This dispatch is organized as follows. After a brief introduction, Section II describes the main facts underlying the legal dispute, as presented by the claimant and ascertained by the judge. Section III is aimed at disentangling the judge’s multi-layered reasoning. It covers four main topics: (i) the legal nature of the service rendered by the platform, (ii) the complementary techniques for classifying working relationships, (iii) the emergence of an adaptable notion of subordination, and (iv) the pervasive role played by management by algorithms. Section IV summarizes the key elements of the ruling and discusses its weaknesses.
Keywords: platform work, employment, management by algorithm, gig-economy, subordination, European Pillar of Social Rights
JEL Classification: K20, K30, K31, K33, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation