And as contractors, not employees, they enjoy few if any traditional workplace protections.
Three former cleaners have now filed two separate suits alleging that Handy classifies them as contractors but oversees them like employees—and demanding that the company compensate them for their unpaid time and expenses.
That didn’t track with what Umang Dua, one of Handy’s co-founders, had been telling me and another reporter just moments earlier.
Since launching in 2012, Handy has expanded to 28 cities, including ones in Canada and England.
(The moniker 1099 nods to the tax forms the IRS requires of most independent contractors.) In the 1099 economy, the company’s role is to facilitate two sides of a marketplace, linking people who have time and skills to people who need their help.
Home services seemed like a good fit for the 1099 approach.
As for the cleaners, many have enjoyed the business the Handy platform has brought them.
But others have felt exploited by the company’s policies. They must maintain exceptionally high ratings to earn the most competitive wages and to keep getting gigs.
The core belief of its evangelists is that you can build empires without actually owning much of anything and without actually employing the people who deliver your services.
In the past, getting your house tidied typically involved either hiring someone through an expensive cleaning company or searching for help on the gray market.
Handy made the process as easy as tapping an icon on a screen.
I had come to the party at the invitation of a Handy PR rep and was making the rounds, introducing myself as a journalist and chatting with employees.
Most had drinks in hand and seemed eager to celebrate.