One of the biggest vulnerabilities that a worker faces is the possibility that their employer might classify them as an independent contractor instead of an employee. Though there are certainly advantages to being an independent contractor if that is the way a person wants to work, when a worker thinks of himself as an employee but their workplace identifies them as an independent contractor it leaves them without important benefits, including having payroll taxes withheld for them, being paid the minimum wage, and being eligible for overtime pay. This question has been the subject of multiple lawsuits filed against the ride-sharing company Uber.
In the last few years, Uber has faced multiple lawsuits filed by drivers claiming that they have violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, which establishes recordkeeping, minimum wage, overtime pay and youth employment standards. In its own defense, Uber has claimed that their drivers are independent contractors, and they have filed for summary judgement to have the lawsuits dismissed. They argue that drivers can log off of their system whenever they choose to, and therefore are in charge of their own schedule.
Uber Black drivers have rejected that argument, pointing out that the company has required that they are always available via phone while they are on duty, and if they ignore three trip requests or respond to a trip request in less than 15 seconds, they are automatically switched offline. They point out that the company’s requirements severely limit their freedom of movement in a way that is much more in keeping with an employer/employee relationship than a client/independent contractor relationship, and that as a result of their requirements of immediate availability, they should be paid for the time that they are online but not transporting customers.
In the latest legal action, Uber asked for a class action lawsuit filed by drivers seeking overtime pay to be dismissed, but the federal judge hearing the case rejected their request and has ordered both parties to come together to determine what the drivers’ working status really is. U. S. District Judge Michael Baylson of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania indicated that he could not agree with Uber’s argument, and suggested that both sides engage in the discovery process to legally pursue their positions.
The Uber case is a recent example of how modern technology is impacting traditional work rules, and how new guidelines may need to be established in order to ensure that workers are treated fairly and get the compensation that they are legally entitled to. If you believe that your employer is treating you unfairly, either by classifying your work status improperly or in some other way keeping you from the compensation that you deserve, we can help. Contact our law office today to set up a convenient time to discuss your rights.