Gig economy rating systems lead to racial bias

MHR

Well-Known Member
Moderator
To fix racial bias in the gig economy, start with the rating systems
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It’s never as simple as “one star” or “five stars.”
By John H. Chuang
Co-founder and CEO, Aquent
September 24, 2020


Inequality in the gig economy is nothing new. For years, millions of low-paid gig workers have been denied sick pay and health insurance by companies that intentionally misclassify them as contract workers. For companies like Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and Taskrabbit, it’s a calculated move to avoid the cost of benefits and federal payroll taxes. Unfortunately, it took a global pandemic to bring these unfair conditions into the spotlight, when under-protected workers suddenly found themselves deemed “essential.”

During the first wave of the coronavirus, many gig workers spoke up about unfair conditions and benefits inequality, including their lack of personal protective equipment, hazard pay, and sick leave. The subsequent public outcry led to some action on the part of the government. In Seattle, the city council voted in June to require food delivery companies such as Instacart and Grubhub to pay gig workers an extra $2.50 per order in hazard pay, for the duration of the Covid-19 emergency. In my home state of Massachusetts, attorney general Maura Healey recently filed a lawsuit against Uber and Lyft for misclassifying their drivers.

But these aren’t silver bullets to achieve equality for gig workers, because they do little to address a more insidious perpetrator of inequality that still lurks in the gig economy: racial bias.

It’s never as simple as “one star” or “five stars”
Like any other sector of American society, ingrained prejudices on the basis of color infiltrate the gig economy both explicitly and implicitly, impacting workers and customers alike. Let’s start with the rating systems many gig companies use to evaluate workers and customers.

Airbnb guests use reviews to assess their rental experiences, while hosts rate their guests based on interactions and adherence to rental property rules. Similarly, Uber riders rate their drivers, and vice versa. These ratings identify—and weed out—the lowest-rated vendors and customers.

But it’s never as simple as “one star” or “five stars,” because ratings are far from objective. In light of the coronavirus, ride-share drivers and riders of Asian descent, for example, have been met with outright discrimination. According to the Los Angeles Times, “in interviews and online, customers and drivers of Asian descent reported a raft of complaints, including inappropriate comments or cancellations due to their appearance or name.”

Other staggering statistics point to anti-Black racism in the gig economy. In 2015, Harvard researchers found “that [Airbnb] applications from guests with distinctively African-American names are 16% less likely to be accepted relative to identical guests with distinctively White names.” And studies show that Black passengers face longer wait times than white passengers when using ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

The common denominator here is identified in a 2016 study which noted that “consumer-sourced ratings like those used by Uber are highly likely to be influenced by bias on the basis of factors like race or ethnicity.”

How to anchor ratings in objectivity
Racial bias presents a complex issue, but a multi-step approach could help address it.

First, companies could improve their rating systems for workers through statistical adjustments that account for race and other demographic factors. These adjustments could work in conjunction with a “rate the rater” metric to detect patterns of bias within repeat raters, and remove those individuals’ abilities to affect workers’ ratings negatively.

Second, ride-share companies should implement more objective measurements to rate workers. Users could assess specific elements like driver punctuality or safety on the road. Uber has been responsive to such ideas, and refined its rating system to bring more transparency for both drivers and riders by guiding how many “stars” should be given according to levels of service or experience.

These kinds of improvements could be adopted by any company that hires temporary talent or freelancers. At my company, Aquent, which specializes in staffing for the marketing and creative industries, we recently created a system to analyze and rate our recruiters to ensure they assemble diverse candidate pools. I’ve found this is a successful way to help clients achieve their diversity and inclusion goals.

Lastly, we need to put an end, once and for all, to benefits inequality by giving gig workers the workplace benefits they rightfully deserve. The US Congress has the opportunity to correct this issue now, by mandating all companies provide basic benefits—such as minimum wage, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, and paid sick leave—for their extended workforces.

Today, gig workers are indisputably integral to the health of the US economy. As the US reckons with its painful history and perpetuation of systemic racism, and rebuilds following the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re provided the opportunity to dismantle prejudiced systems and rebuild them fairly for all.

John H. Chuang is the CEO of Aquent, a Boston-based workforce services company, operating the world’s largest marketing and creative staffing firm. It has been providing comprehensive benefits to talent since 1993.
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Johnny Mnemonic

Well-Known Member
Aquent doesn't discriminate based on race. They underpay all of their foreign temp-workers equally.

Business a little slow these days, Mr. Chuang? Maybe a little race-baiting will drum up some revenue.

There's always an angle with these toads.

"AARP and staffing agency Aquent LLC face a possible trial on a fired contractor’s pregnancy bias claims, because a reasonable jury could find that AARP’s reasons for ending her assignment were pretextual and that Aquent knew of the alleged discrimination and didn’t attempt to correct it, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said."

 

waldowainthrop

Well-Known Member
Aquent doesn't discriminate based on race. They underpay all of their foreign temp-workers equally.

I agree with your skepticism of the source and that AARP case sounds bad, but is their business really about “foreign temp workers” or just temp workers? I don’t think Aquent’s deal is primarily about outsourcing overseas or bringing people in from other countries.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Aquent focus on local outsourcing and not “foreign” outsourcing? Isn’t Aquent entirely homegrown?

I hate companies like Aquent but don’t they basically do the same thing as any other contracting firm like Booz-Allen where the hiring company just relies on them to do everything within a technical domain, including but not limited to mistreating contract workers?
 

Johnny Mnemonic

Well-Known Member
I agree with your skepticism of the source and that AARP case sounds bad, but is their business really about “foreign temp workers” or just temp workers? I don’t think Aquent’s deal is primarily about outsourcing overseas or bringing people in from other countries.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Aquent focus on local outsourcing and not “foreign” outsourcing? Isn’t Aquent entirely homegrown?

I hate companies like Aquent but don’t they basically do the same thing as any other contracting firm like Booz-Allen where the hiring company just relies on them to do everything within a technical domain, including but not limited to mistreating contract workers?
Your guess is as good as mine. I tried to find out the extent of offshoring/outsourcing Aquent is involved in, but not surprisingly the company is completely opaque about how it conducts its self-described "worldwide" business. You raise a fair argument, which is that they may not be any different than any other IT temp-agency.
 

IthurstwhenIP

Well-Known Member
Black people deserve a 'get out of jail free' card at least once on the gig. Reject a service animal, rape a pax, suspended license. I say give them a do over in the name of social justice.
 

waldowainthrop

Well-Known Member
Your guess is as good as mine. I tried to find out the extent of offshoring/outsourcing Aquent is involved in, but not surprisingly the company is completely opaque about how it conducts its self-described "worldwide" business. You raise a fair argument, which is that they may not be any different than any other IT temp-agency.

I think you’re completely right about a temp agency leader being in an odd position criticizing the gig economy. Neither are typically very good at treating workers like people.

I’ve done temp work before. It can be bad.
 

UberBastid

Well-Known Member
I’ve done temp work before. It can be bad.
I have too, and yes it can be bad.

It takes a different personality to be a temp.
A strong sense of self and a knowledge of self-worth is needed.
That, and the ability and willingness to say, "No. I don't do that."

I was hired thru a temp agency to straighten out an Accounts Payable department.
It was a hot mess.

The boss wanted me to lie to the Accounts Receivable departments of our vendor companies about if we mailed out a check or not. I had to explain to him that "If I'm going to burn in hell for lying, it will be for MY benefit, not this company. If you need to hire someone who will lie for you, you'll need to hire a lawyer. That's not my job."

He wasn't happy about it, but I didn't GAF because I knew I was good at what I did, and that the temp agency would have me reassigned in hours.

If you get weak with the agency or the job you will end up a door mat.
 

Fusion_LUser

Well-Known Member
I propose a base rating system that ants have start with and then earn their way up.

White Male -1 Stars
White Trump Supporter -10 Stars
Asian Mathematician -8 Stars
Hispanic Vet +2 Stars
Former MS-13 Gangbanger +.5 Stars
New Hampshire Hipster +3 Stars
Homosexual Lesbian Transvestite Poodle +15 Stars

Sure we'll have to play with the Star Matrix to make it fair for mostly everyone but that's the best part. You get to make it all up as you go!
 

MikhailCA

Well-Known Member
I propose a base rating system that ants have start with and then earn their way up.

White Male -1 Stars
White Trump Supporter -10 Stars
Asian Mathematician -8 Stars
Hispanic Vet +2 Stars
Former MS-13 Gangbanger +.5 Stars
New Hampshire Hipster +3 Stars
Homosexual Lesbian Transvestite Poodle +15 Stars

Sure we'll have to play with the Star Matrix to make it fair for mostly everyone but that's the best part. You get to make it all up as you go!
What’s wrong with Asian mathematicians?
 

UberBastid

Well-Known Member
What’s wrong with Asian mathematicians?
I remember once, when I was in college, I had to take a Calculus class.
I walked in the first day and fully two-thirds of the class was Asian.
THEN the professor said he graded on a curve ...

I didn't even wait for the end of the first class.
I gathered up my crap and left.
Dropped the class.

Got in a class that started at 7pm, so a bunch of people who worked all day ... no Asians, no curve.
I got a B.

Is that racist of me?
I am a sinner.
 

UberBastid

Well-Known Member
Do keep in mind that anything that does not sit quite right with a "progressive" is automatically "racist".. Even COVID-19 is racist.
I know, I know.
And Christianity does not set well with progressives either.
Christian is bad. Muslim is ok. Jewish is bad.

So, when I admit that I am a flawed being because that's the way God made me -- I've already lost.
Allah Akbar.
 

UberBastid

Well-Known Member
@UberBastid, such a funny original post. You had me cracking up! Cheers mate!
Thanks.
I went through college with the mindset of a person who has to get thru prison.
I bore down, took more classes than I should have and got my four years in three (time off for good behavior).

I did not have time to deal with elitist, nose-in-the-air professors (or anyone else for that matter). I was not in an engineering curriculum - I was never going to need to plot a course to Venus ... I was a business major, and calculus of the caliber that was being taught in that class was not appropriate for me.
If presented with an obstacle, I found a way around, over, under or through. Which is, after all, the type of skills a good business school encourages.
I was so focused on the goal I saw nothing else.
 

W00dbutcher

Well-Known Member
Do away with stars...

3 simple questions.

1.Would you ride with this person again

2. Unpair me from ever riding with this person

3. I don't care I just want a ride.
 
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