Are Uber and Lyft Drivers Entitled to Benefits for Employees?

Are you a driver for Uber or Lyft? You should be aware there is a landmark case in California that could affect your employment status. Photo of earnings statement

Recently, a federal judge in San Francisco took up a case that challenged Uber’s decision to treat drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. According to the Los Angeles Times, decisions made by the court could have a major impact on drivers throughout the country, including those who work for Lyft.

The class action lawsuit challenges Uber’s policy of defining its drivers as independent contractors, leaving them unprotected by California Labor Code. Because Uber does not treat drivers like other employees, drivers say that they have been denied items like “minimum wage, reimbursement for expenses, overtime and other benefits.”

While a ruling has not been made yet, the judge presiding over the case has made some statements that legal experts say seem to favor the drivers in court. “The idea that Uber is simply a software platform, I don’t find that a very persuasive argument,” U.S. District Judge Edward Chen said recently, according to the Times.

The drivers claim that they are integral to the Uber business model—it should be noted that the company has argued that it is a technology company and not a transportation provider like a taxi or limousine service, thus drivers are not entitled to benefits and can be hired as independent contractors.

It should be noted that Uber has more than 160,000 active drivers in 161 cities. If the judge rules favorably for the drivers in this case, it could change the landscape of tech transportation employment models, as drivers could gain favorable workplace rights and employee benefits.

Why Would an Employer Classify Someone as an Independent Contractor?

As this case shows, drivers are beginning to take legal action when they are wrongfully classified as independent contractors. We have reported about classification issues previously when it comes to the transportation industry. Sadly, some companies choose to misclassify employees as a way of denying them overtime or to avoid paying them legal wages.

It appears as though employee misclassification is becoming more popular among tech companies and transportation providers, as more lawsuits are being filed. Often, these cases deal with issues like wage and overtime claims, such as when employees are not paid for instances when they are waiting for service, there are no customers to handle or the weather is poor. Additionally, when conditions are favorable and business is busy, some of these drivers are being asked to work more than 40 hours per week without being paid overtime.

For further information about wage and overtime disputes, as well as employee misclassification, continue to read our blog and follow our social media sites. We love our Facebook followers and appreciate feedback.

Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob—Los Angeles employment attorneys


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