As California continues to fight with Uber and Lyft over the employment status of rideshare drivers, the labor commissioner has now filed a lawsuit against the two companies for alleged wage theft. According to the lawsuit, the companies have “willfully” misclassified drivers as independent contractors, which has deprived them of basic worker protections and wages.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the goal of the lawsuit is to seek to “stop the two companies from misclassifying their drivers and allow the Labor Commissioner to recover unpaid wages and other compensation that drivers are entitled to.” It argues that Uber and Lyft have failed to pay drivers minimum wage, overtime, compensation for rest periods and business expenses, and additional damages.
The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, requests that the court order both Uber and Lyft to stop misclassifying their drivers. This lawsuit comes months after Assembly Bill 5 established stricter standards by which workers can be treated as independent contractors.
In response to the lawsuit, Uber spokesperson Davis White had this to say: “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.”
Lyft spokesperson Julie Wood also commented on the matter, believing the state filed the lawsuit in an effort to reduce its work on the wage claims rideshare drivers have filed: “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.”
Since February 2020, more than 2,000 California ride-hailing drivers have filed claims against Uber and Lyft. In total, the claims alleged more than $630 million is owed in wages, expenses, and damages.
The Transport Workers Union International is in favor of the lawsuit, stating the following: “For years Uber and Lyft have been stealing wages and exploiting every legal loophole they can to avoid paying drivers what they deserve. It was shameful before and it is even more shameful now, during the middle of a pandemic, that we have allowed wealthy companies to get away with this. This lawsuit is an essential part of holding these companies accountable and protecting drivers’ rights.”
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