Within two weeks of agreeing to settle class actions by its drivers in California and Massachusetts to the tune of as much as $100 million, Uber is now facing lawsuits in Florida and Illinois, with lawyers in each case aiming to represent Uber drivers nationwide. According to the Los Angeles Times, the cases claim that the rideshare platform violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and aim to recover unpaid wages and expenses on behalf of hundreds of thousands of drivers:
The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois goes a step further and tries to recover tips that were “earned but stolen by Uber, or were lost due to [Uber’s] communications and policies.”
“Uber tried to piecemeal this and said, ‘OK, we’ll just settle with California and Massachusetts drivers,’” said Brian H. Mahany, the plaintiff attorney who filed the class-action lawsuit in Illinois. “That’s like sticking your finger in a dam when there’s water pouring out all over the place. For many drivers, this is their livelihood. These people are entitled to minimum wage and overtime just like everyone else.” …
The company faces multiple state-specific lawsuits around the country, which claim that it violated state labor laws in the way it classified its drivers. The Florida and Illinois cases seek to cover a nationwide class, although the latter excludes California and Massachusetts because of the pending settlement in those states.
One reason why Uber was willing to pay such a vast sum to settle the previous lawsuits out of court was to avoid a court ruling that could potentially reclassify its drivers as employees rather than independent contractors—a designation on which Uber’s business model depends (In fact, they may resemble something in between employees and contractors). Speaking to Christine Lagorio-Chafkin at Inc., Mahany explains that his lawsuit is aimed at settling that question once and for all:
Mahany tells Inc.com that watching the settlement come in late last month made him feel “very disappointed.” “They basically threw some cash at it,” Mahany said. “Obviously we don’t think it was fair to drivers and we want to see some national resolution of this.”
Since the April 21 settlement, a handful of other complaints have popped up around the country–this Northern Illinois one, filed on behalf of hundreds of thousands of drivers nationwide, being the most recent. It asks the court to require Uber to classify its drivers as employees, and to award drivers unpaid overtime and expenses, as well as unpaid gratuities, plus equitable relief.
“So many people in the gig economy are working multiple gig-like jobs,” Mahany says. “For those depending on this as a livelihood and not even making a minimum wage, this is not a fair deal.”
To support that argument, Mahany might point to a recent study from the JPMorgan Chase Institute, which found, as Quartz’s Alison Griswold observes, that people who find work through gig economy platforms like Uber are more likely to depend on those platforms for their living the poorer they are:
According to JPMorgan Chase’s data, people who work for labor platforms and are in the lowest income quintile (earning less than $30,000 a year) get nearly 30% of their earnings from those jobs. Labor platform participants in the highest income quintile ($83,900+), meanwhile, get only 20% of their income from such jobs.