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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Lyft Drivers Reject Settlement, Want Employee Status Instead of Cash

Posted By on Tue, Mar 15, 2016 at 2:05 PM

click to enlarge Keep the stache — I want a job. - FLICKR/SPUR
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  • Keep the stache — I want a job.

Lyft drivers unhappy with their status as independent contractors say a recent $12.25 million settlement in an employment classification lawsuit merely allows the ride-hail app company to continue doing business as usual.

Today, the Teamsters union is expected to file an objection to the settlement, which has yet to receive a judge’s approval, in U.S. district court in San Francisco, according to The Guardian. 

The class action lawsuit covers about 100,000 drivers, some of whom say it’s more important to be considered full-time employees of Lyft in order to receive benefits like overtime pay, expense reimbursement, minimum wage, Social Security, and workers’ compensation.

Due to the number of drivers covered in the lawsuit, the average payout would be $60, with some longer-time employees receiving up to $1,000. It also means Lyft does not have to reclassify drivers as employees.

Employee status is all the rage for drivers of app-hailed taxi alternatives. A civil lawsuit challenging Uber's classification of its "partners" as independent contractors is set to go to trial in June. In the meantime, the state Employment Development Department has been classifying some former drivers as employees on a case-by-case basis.

The union hopes the objection will persuade Judge Vince Chhabria to reject the settlement and force ongoing negotiations between the San Francisco-based company and the lawsuit plaintiffs. One stipulation of the settlement is that drivers could not bring the same lawsuit against Lyft again.

Filed in 2013, the lawsuit was brought by two drivers who sought to be classified as actual employees and not independent contractors. Uber drivers are fighting a similar battle with that company, Lyft’s main competitor.

The Teamsters also claims Lyft’s current classification of drivers deprives them of federal labor rights, such as the ability to unionize, and it filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in San Francisco. 

Kelsey Tilander is one of the drivers objecting to the settlement. The stay-at-home dad said he was attracted to the job by its flexibility and chance to earn a decent income. However, he said Lyft has lowered his rates five times in 18 months, forcing him to work more to maintain a good pay rate. The settlement would provide a minuscule sum of money compared to having full-time employee status, Tilander said.

Drivers at tech companies such as Facebook, Yahoo, Apple, and eBay have organized with the Teamsters union in the past year. The union said it has been able to negotiate “strong” contracts for the drivers that include good wages, benefits, and protections in the workplace.

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