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Cleaners Demand Harassment Safeguards From the Booking Service Handy

Housekeepers who work in hotels and casinos often face harassment on the job, studies have shown, but it is not clear how often cleaners face harassment in private homes. Hotels usually employ their cleaning staff, and some municipalities require them to protect cleaners from harassment or even give them panic buttons to use while working. But workers who find cleaning gigs through Handy have fewer protections.

In Ms. Cris’s case, she said, she told the naked man that she was a Handy worker, but he said he had not requested an apartment cleaning. She quickly left and emailed Handy to report the incident that day, she said, then left a flurry of voice mail messages and follow-up emails when the company did not respond — and docked her pay for not completing the job.

Eventually, she said, a Handy representative said a record of the booking could not be found. That was the last straw for Ms. Cris, who said she had dealt with a litany of issues while working for Handy and decided to quit the platform after about eight months.

Other Handy workers who spoke to The Times, as well as workers whose stories were included in the Public Rights Project complaint, said Handy’s policy of billing workers who left a job early put pressure on them to stay in uncomfortable situations. They said customers also sometimes threatened them with negative ratings if they spoke up about misbehavior — a consequence that could cause the workers to be kicked off Handy’s platform.

Handy said it regularly removed customers’ ratings and reviews of workers upon a worker’s request.

Legislators and regulators in California have tried to force gig companies to be more accountable for their workers through A.B. 5. But ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, which use gig workers as drivers, have protested the employment law and threatened to suspend service in California if they were forced to undertake what they said would be a costly reclassification.

Handy has a far lower profile than the two transit giants, but an employment reclassification would be no less significant for its workers, the Public Rights Project argued.

Handy has “sort of been hiding behind Uber and Lyft — they’re less on the radar potentially for some enforcers,” Ms. Montoya Tansey said. “But they’re no less clear in their desire to flout the law.”

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