April: Drivers Protest And File A $630 Million Lawsuit

April: Drivers Protest And File A $630 Million Lawsuit

Uber and Lyft drivers in California claim they're owed more than $630 million in back wages, driver advocacy group Rideshare Drivers United said in a press release.

Over 2,000 Drivers in California have filed filed wage claims against Uber and Lyft since February, alleging the companies have illegally treated them as independent contractors and owe them more than $630 million in lost wages, expenses and damages.

Rideshare Drivers United is bringing attention to these claims in Los Angeles and hopes to pressure the state to enforce Assembly Bill 5, a law that established stricter standards for companies that treat workers as contractors rather than employees to help Drivers earn more and get benefits during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Stacey Wells, a spokeswoman for the App-Based Drivers Services Coalition, which represents both Uber and Lyft, said stepped-up enforcement of AB 5 would only hurt workers in the gig economy. “Forcing app-based rideshare and delivery drivers to become employees — which the vast majority have repeatedly said they do not want — will result in the widespread elimination of work for hundreds of thousands of Californians at the very worst possible time,” Wells said in a statement.

The AB5 bill aims to address all indepndent contractos across the nation in the pursuit of changing Uber and this one size fits all approach is forcing some groups to protest and call for its suspension because it makes difficult for freelancers to find work while stay-at-home orders remain in effect. Though, drivers are desperate for higher wages now and groups like the Rideshare Drivers United say that the COVID-19 pandmic highlights the eneed fo employee like treatment, sick leave, and employee benefits to be able to susrvive this economic downturn.

“For whatever reason, neither the state nor the cities that are empowered by the law to enforce AB 5 have taken hard action to do so,” Nicole Moore, an organizer with Rideshare Drivers United, said. “That’s why in February drivers took it upon ourselves to enforce the law through the people’s enforcement, which are these wage claims.”

Navigating how to file wage claims against a company while being treated as a contractor can be complex, Moore said. So the group created a web tool to help streamline the process for drivers. In February, when RDU first began calling drivers to file wage claims, there were about 200 claims which soon jumped to thousands of Drivers in a matter of weeks.

The labor commissioner’s office said it is processing more than 2,600 such claims filed by ride-hail drivers since March 1. In a statement, the office said it is monitoring the outcome of pending misclassification lawsuits under AB 5, but noted that U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, who is presiding over one such case, has written that “companies like Lyft” are “thumbing their noses” at the law.

The process is expected to take months but some drivers should expect to hear backfrom the commissioner immediately due to the urgency of the pandemic.

In addition to overtime pay that drivers say they are owed, drivers are also asking the labor commissioner to order the companies to pay them back for business expenses, including vehicle mileage, phone bills, monthly carwashes and customer amenities, according to a wage claim The Times reviewed.

One driver says that Uber owes him over $100,000 because he loggs over 3,000 hours of work. Out of which $40,000 in business expenses, the vast majority of which was payment for the 66,000 miles he had driven for Uber.

Uber and Lyft have fought these lawsuits for over 5 years and stand adamant that their drivers are contractors and are classifying correctly. To advance these efforts and viewpoint for legislators, they, along with other gig companies, have invested $110 million to advance a ballot measure that could serve as an alternative to AB 5 to make themselves exempt from this law because it is incorrect to rule the entire gig-economy space with a single bill or test to determine between employee and contractor status.

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