The "gig" economy is continually evolving. Government regulators, industry insiders and workers do not know what, if any, protections extend to "gig" workers. Are they entitled to a minimum wage? Are they employees or independent contractors? How do they fit into the tax system? Should a new classification of worker be invented that blends employee and contractor rules? Uber and several thousand drivers just settled a major lawsuit that may partially answer some of these questions.
Earlier this month, drivers in California and Massachusetts agreed to settle their case against Uber for $100 million. The central issue of the case revolved around whether or not Uber drivers are entitled to reimbursement for their expenses. If the case went to trial and the drivers prevailed, then they would legally be defined as employees, which automatically would extend several benefits including unemployment, payroll taxes, workers' compensation and minimum wage protections.
The settlement specifically states that the Uber drivers agree they are contractors, so Uber avoids this particular classification this time. But the settlement in no way limits the ability of other lawsuits to be filed or for a government agency to intervene.
The suit also forces Uber to institute a policy to handle driver deactivation. For now, Uber can cancel any driver for any reason at any time. But the lawsuit requires Uber to create a policy that informs the drivers of the process and gives them an opportunity to appeal. If you are a driver in Missouri, you can look forward to this new policy to clarify your position in the company.
If you are a "gig" worker for Uber, Lyft or Taskrabbit, then your rights as a worker are still in flux. You may or may not be entitled to workers' compensation, reimbursements or even unemployment. Regardless of the outcome of these lawsuits, you may want to speak to an attorney. A lawyer can go over your rights and help you determine if you have a valid employment law claim or perhaps another legal issue.
Source: Reuters, "Uber drivers remain independent contractors as lawsuit settled," Dan Levin, April 22 2016