Despite lawsuits and persistent legal uncertainties, the “sharing economy” is booming, and the companies at its forefront continue to grow. Some of these businesses are a natural complement to the hotel industry, while others directly compete with it. Whatever may become of these companies as they are reined in by regulation, one thing is certain: the rise or fall of the “sharing economy” will define the landscape of the hospitality sector in the decades ahead.
Ridesharing giant Uber raised $2.1 billion in its most recent round of funding, buoyed by a valuation of more than $65 billion – a remarkable ascendance for the five-year-old company. Its success has attracted a wave of new entrants seeking to gain a foothold in this burgeoning market. But the road to a share of the sharing economy is fraught with legal peril.
From franchisers and companies hiring workers through staffing agencies, to participants in the so-called “sharing economy,” companies and individuals today enter into a variety of contractual arrangements to reduce costs and to maximize available capital, flexibility, talent and efficiency in delivering goods and services. The recent decision of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) in Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., 362 NLRB No. 186 (2015), may change how many of these relationships function, and even, whether some of them are now too risky for some participants.
Greg Duff founded and chairs Foster Garvey’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.