In another move to protect gig workers around the state, the California Labor Commissioner’s Office announced the filing of two new lawsuits against Uber and Lyft for committing wage theft by continuing to misclassify their employees as independent contractors.
The Commissioner’s Office said in a press release that the lawsuits are seeking to recover wages and other costs associated with driving for the companies, including paid sick time, paid rest periods, and reimbursements for the costs of operating and maintaining equipment needed to perform their work.
“The goal of the lawsuits is to enforce California labor laws and to ensure that drivers are not misclassified as independent contractors,” the announcement stated.
Specifically, California’s Assembly Bill 5 (Gonzalez, D-San Diego), landmark legislation that went into effect in the beginning of the year, requires gig drivers that don’t meet the “ABC test” to be classified as employees with access to employment benefits.
Uber, Lyft and other gig economy employers such as DoorDash have so far flouted the newly-enacted law and have continued to classify their employees as independent contractors, robbing them of employment benefits such as the minimum wage, overtime pay after 8-hours, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation.
These companies seem to be holding out hope that they can fool voters into approving Proposition 22, an initiative on the November ballot that pretends to offer additional benefits to drivers but really just perpetuates the status quo. Gig employers have so far poured over $110 million into the campaign, money that could easily be spent on providing adequate payment and benefits to their current employees.
The Commissioner’s Office lawsuits come as many drivers, deemed essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, continue to put themselves in harms way to provide essential services but would not be given the same benefits as other essential workers who become infected, namely through workers’ compensation.
The move also follows temporary injunctions filed by Attorney General Xavier Becerra and city attorneys for Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, to immediately halt the unlawful misclassification of their driver employees as independent contractors.
Our lawmakers and public officials continue to convey to these companies that their unfair and illegal employment practices are no longer acceptable. We hope voters resoundingly reject Proposition 22 in November and send a clear message to Uber, Lyft and the like that it’s time for a new gig.