California gig workers involved in employment litigation

Across the country, new businesses are popping up which connect customers to services through apps. Uber, for example, connects drivers with local people in need of rides by using an app which also automatically collects the fee for the ride. However, the drivers and other people who provide these services are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the way they are treated as contractors, or gig workers. In California and other states, this has led to employment litigation.

Uber uses more than 400,000 drivers nationwide. The company claims that providing workers with a guaranteed wage, insurance or other benefits might be devastating to the company. Some drivers say that after paying tolls, gas and other expenses, they may make about $3 an hour. One driver claims the company deactivated his account when he insisted he be reimbursed after his car was damaged while transporting a customer.

Because drivers are considered contract workers, they do not qualify for unemployment or workers' compensation. However, in several lawsuits across the country, courts are finding that contract workers are indeed employees if the company they work for exercises certain controls over them -- for example hiring, firing, setting fares and disciplining poor performance. When the courts determine a contract worker is an employee of a company, that company may owe the state thousands of dollars in taxes in addition to compensation to the employee.

Contract workers in California who feel they are being mistreated by their employers turn to business attorneys who will lead them through the steps of employment litigation. These disputes are not limited to driving services but also include other app-enabled businesses such as courier services, handyman companies, and grocery shopping and delivery services. Gig workers seem to be gaining status as employees and winning the benefits that accompany that status.

Source:, "Who's an Employee? The Uber-Important Question of Today's Economy", J.B. Wogan, June 9, 2016

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