Friday, July 20, 2018

"Uber drivers 'employees' for unemployment purposes, NY labor board says"

From Ars Technica:

Meanwhile, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance called the ruling a "landmark decision."
New York City’s largest taxi driver advocacy group is hailing a legal decision by the New York State Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, which ruled last Friday that three out-of-work Uber drivers can be considered employees for the purpose of unemployment benefits. The decision was first reported Thursday by Politico.

In other words, three men—and possibly other "similarly situated" Uber drivers who had quit over low pay or who were deactivated from the Uber platform—can get paid.

"The decision means that New York Uber drivers can file for unemployment insurance and likely receive it," Veena Dubal, a labor law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, emailed Ars.

"Uber may appeal the decision to state court, but for now, it’s good law."

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, in a statement, called the ruling a "landmark decision," arguing that it "could also be persuasive in other contexts where the employment status of Uber drivers is in question."

"This decision gives drivers a safety net, and one that Uber has to pay for, challenging Uber's business model of low pay and lower retention. Uber treats drivers as if they are expendable, and up until now, it's never had to come at a risk or cost to the company," Bhairavi Desai, the group’s executive director, said in the same statement.

"We started off with claims from the drivers gathering dust in some corner under 'executive review' to now the drivers being victorious at the highest level of the Department of Labor. It shows that when drivers unite to fight Uber's business model, we can win."

Danielle Filson, an Uber spokeswoman, declined to respond to Ars’ specific questions but sent a statement: "We disagree with this ruling and we are reviewing our options. We are confident that the ruling uniquely applies to the three claimants because many of the practices cited in the opinion never applied to one or more of the claimants, are no longer in place, or never existed at all."

In this particular case, if Uber does appeal, the case would be sent straight to a state-level appeals court. There, judges would not be asked to definitively answer the employee versus contractor question, but rather, figure out whether the Appeal Board itself had adequate evidence to make that determination.

For years, Uber has fought tooth and nail against having its drivers be classified as employees, and not only in the United States—Uber lost a similar case in 2016 in the United Kingdom, and a major case on this exact issue is currently pending before the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. ....