By Alec Brooks of Kazerouni Law Group, APC on Tuesday, May 17, 2016.
With the ever increasing slew of apps that are being created and put into use each day, anyone armed with a smartphone has round the clock endless services at their disposal. Hopeless romantics can browse local singles through apps like Tinder and Happn. Hungry college students can have beer and chicken wings delivered to their dorm at 4 am using apps like Postmates and Spoonrocket. People in new cities without transportation, or others who might have had too much to drink to drive home can get a ride from virtually anywhere using the rideshare apps Uber and Lyft. These rideshare apps are arguably the most prominent and necessary apps on the market. The notable advantages of these apps as opposed to taking taxis are; they’re cheaper, they’re available at all times, all payments are electronic, and users have a choice of driver based on their ratings. Seemingly the only bug these apps haven’t figured out is how they should treat their drivers. And, because of this, both companies have had to redirect their focus from iphones in the streets, to briefs in the courtroom.
Due to the fact that both Uber and Lyft designate their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, the drivers are getting left with the bill when it comes to gasoline and damages to their vehicles. Being classified as private contractors has also stripped the drivers of things like overtime pay and other benefits that come with being an employee. A settlement was reached on May 11th, 2016 when U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria deemed that California Lyft drivers could have collected $156 million if they were classified as employees from the start. Lyft settled for $27 million. On April 22, 2016 Uber came to a similar settlement, but for $100 million. Uber’s settlement was reached with drivers in both California and Massachusetts.
While both settlements wound up not changing the status of present Lyft and Uber drivers from independent contractors to employees, they certainly highlighted the problems that can arise from the loose terms of agreements that are often affiliated with working for these startup apps. Just because more times than not people working for these apps never meet their boss, or even their coworkers for that matter, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same rights as employees of other companies. It’s easy to get caught up and lost in the hype surrounding startup apps, and, due to the fear of missing out, many people seem to be jumping on board without reading the fineprint or really understanding their roles within the company. So when it comes to using the apps, click away, they can be real lifesavers. As far as working for the cute little icon you see on your screen, approach with caution, and don’t be afraid to “swipe left” until you find something more secure.
If you’re unsure about your employment classification or have other employment issues such as discrimination or being short changed on your wages, please contact Kazerouni Law Group at 800-400-6808.