Dozens of Uber drivers in Massachusetts have filed a lawsuit against the ride-sharing giant, alleging the company skirts federal and state employment laws by labeling its drivers independent contractors rather than employees.
The lawsuit, filed earlier this week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, states the company “regularly fails to pay” the required minimum wage, with some making less than $8 an hour. Plaintiffs say the ride-sharing company failed to pay drivers a minimum wage and proper overtime rates for drivers who work more than 40 hours a week, allegedly in violation of Massachusetts laws.
“Uber treats all of its drivers like independent contractors even though they provide the core service, which is transportation,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Travis Lenkner, managing partner of Chicago-based law firm Keller Lenkner LLC. “By doing that, Uber gets to evade minimum wage, overtime, and sick leave laws. Many of the drivers make less than $8 an hour even though in Massachusetts it is $12 an hour.”
The vast number of “gig economy” workers, such as Uber and Lyft drivers, are treated as independent contractors instead of employees, including the 79 drivers filing this lawsuit. That “improper” classification allows the company to evade federal and state employment obligations, Lenkner said.
“They are denied fundamental rights under federal and state laws, on minimum wage, overtime pay, and sick time,” Lenkner said.
The drivers say they are qualified to be recognized as employees under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and Massachusetts law, despite Uber’s repeated attempts to cast drivers as the owners of their own businesses.
“These aren’t independent business owners, they signed up to work for Uber and they’re under-compensated,” said Lenkner. “So while Uber is reaping more money for themselves, you have thousands of Uber drivers across the country who are underpaid.”
Currently, Massachusetts law requires employers to provide workers with earning statements that allow them to assess their hourly wage. The drivers filing the suit say the ride-sharing company is omitting those crucial numbers.
“Uber doesn’t give drivers a W-2 form, instead it’s weekly, monthly and annual statements but don’t contain full hours worked or mileage figures,” Lenkner said. “Even when Uber has that information readily available. How many miles did they drive? That’s relevant to their expense since Uber isn’t reimbursing the drivers for that.”
Business advocacy groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business have previously supported Uber’s position, saying that reclassifying independent contractors as employees would have damaging implications for the business community.
A spokeswoman for Uber declined to comment.