California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and city attorneys for three major California cities recently stepped up in a big way to help protect a group of essential workers: app-based delivery drivers.
On June 24, Becerra and the city attorneys for Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco announced they would be filing a temporary injunction against Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other app-based companies to immediately halt the unlawful misclassification of their driver employees as independent contractors.
The move comes as “gig economy” companies have so far refused to comply with California’s Assembly Bill 5 (Gonzalez, D-San Diego), landmark legislation that went into effect in the beginning of the year requiring drivers to be classified as employees with access to employment benefits – the minimum wage, overtime pay after 8-hours, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation.
“Misclassified drivers who may lack access to paid sick days and medical care through workers’ compensation also pose risks to public health by increasing the risk of transmitting diseases such as COVID-19,” the press release stated in part.
Deemed essential, many drivers have continued to work through the pandemic to provide essential services, particularly delivery food to homebound elderly Californians. While Uber and Lyft have just recently announced rules for drivers and riders to wear masks or be refused rides, these rules really “mask” the inhumane business practices that exploit these workers.
If a driver were to have tested positive for COVID-19 during the time covered by the Governor’s Executive Order, they wouldn’t be covered under California’s rebuttable presumption for workers’ compensation benefits available for essential workers and would be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars for their own medical care.
Meanwhile, Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other app-based companies have pooled together $110 million for a campaign to pass a ballot initiative that would exempt their drivers from AB 5... and exempt themselves from paying into Social Security. The initiative qualified for the ballot in May and will be put to voters to decide this November.
Uber also just acquired Postmates in a $2.65 billion buyout.
While the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage California and much of the U.S., these corporations won’t spend what they should to protect those who work for them while spending millions on protecting themselves.
Kudos to Attorney General Becerra and the group of attorneys for taking these corporations to task and hopefully helping this group of essential workers obtain the benefits they are legally entitled to.