Court Rules in Favor of California: Uber and Lyft Drivers are Employees

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Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media  

Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media  

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office announced Aug. 5 that it filed separate lawsuits accusing ride-share companies Uber and Lyft for wage theft. They misclassified their drivers, the complaint says, as independent contractors. 

The lawsuits are the latest move in the state’s fight to enforce AB 5, the controversial labor law that took effect Jan. 1 which reclassified app-based companies’ ride-share and delivery drivers as employees. Under AB 5, workers are considered employees unless they are free from the hiring entity’s control, perform work outside of the hiring entity’s usual business and work in an independently established occupation or trade. 

According to a statement from the Labor Commissioner’s Office, the lawsuits allege that Uber and Lyft failed to meet employer obligations required by California labor law, including paying at least minimum wage for all hours worked, as well as overtime and sick leave compensation. The companies also did not provide paid rest periods and neglected to reimburse drivers for the cost of equipment, supplies and personal vehicle mileage, according to the claim.  

“The Uber and Lyft business model rests on the misclassification of drivers as independent contractors,” said California Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower. “This leaves workers without protections such as paid sick leave and reimbursement of drivers’ expenses, as well as overtime and minimum wages.” 

In addition to seeking a court order that Uber and Lyft classify their drivers as employees and provide required Labor Code protections, the lawsuits also seek the recovery of unpaid wages, penalties and interest. The money collected for unpaid wages, penalties and reimbursements of business expenses will be distributed to all drivers who worked for Uber and Lyft during the time period covered by the lawsuit. 

According to the Labor Commissioner’s Office, nearly 5,000 Uber and Lyft drivers have filed claims for owed wages. The Office estimates that Uber and Lyft each employ more than 100,000 drivers across California.  

The Labor Commissioner’s lawsuits come after California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with the City Attorneys of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego filed a preliminary injunction to get Uber and Lyft to immediately classify their drivers as employees in June. A ruling on the preliminary injunction is expected within the next week. 

In response to the lawsuits, Uber said in a statement, “The vast majority of California drivers want to work independently, and we’ve already made significant changes to our app to ensure that remains the case under state law. When 3 million Californians are without a job, our leaders should be focused on creating work, not trying to shut down an entire industry.” 

A Lyft spokesperson said in a statement, “The state labor agency has botched thousands of claims. They know they don’t have the ability to process these claims, so they sent them into a legal abyss, where they know it will take years to resolve them.”

<strong>Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media  </strong>
Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media  

 

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