Consumer Law as Work Law

54 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2023 Last revised: 13 Mar 2024

Date Written: February 29, 2024

Abstract

In recent decades, the U.S. labor market has shifted from a prevalence of long-term, single-employer careers to more contingent work or work disguised as entrepreneurship. These attenuated relations between worker and firm reflect the “fissuring” of work, in which firms have utilized laws that permit them to offload costs and risks though outsourcing, subcontracting, and franchising out their labor needs. Some firms now go beyond fissuring work: they treat the workers themselves as consumers by offering them services and credit products. Workers, in short, are also consumers in some contexts. And when firms expand employment contracts to extend services and credit products to workers, workers are entitled to consumer law protections.


This Article calls for an integrated work law that includes consumer law to more adequately counter worker exploitation. Some favor a return to earlier industrial relations through traditional employment law, by fortifying the statuses of employer and employee and the principle of compensation for work. But those laws have proved inadequate, and as the conventional relations break down, so too will law have to re-situate to provide adequate worker protections. By using consumer law, such as unfair or deceptive acts or practices laws, along with established employment law, workers can gain leverage. Combining consumer law and employment law approaches would also allow the doctrines to inform and strengthen one another. Ultimately, this paired doctrinal evolution could support workers’ collective action to resolve asymmetries in bargaining power.

Keywords: contract law, consumer law, employment law, labor law, personnel economics, economic perspectives, legal theory

JEL Classification: J00, J2, J3, J4,J5, J6, M5

Suggested Citation

Harris, Jonathan, Consumer Law as Work Law (February 29, 2024). 112 California Law Review 1 (2024) , Loyola Law School, Los Angeles Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2022-06, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4172535

Jonathan Harris (Contact Author)

LMU Loyola Law School ( email )

919 Albany Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015-1211
United States

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