The New York State Department of Labor has ruled that two drivers who used to work for Uber were considered employees and, therefore, eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits, as reported by Crain’s New York Business. This decision is considered to be the first of its kind regarding for-hire drivers in New York State.
The two drivers — Jakir Hossain and Levon Aleksanian — filed unemployment claims with the DOL, but received no response. In July, the Taxi Workers Alliance filed a lawsuit against the DOL, requesting that the agency review Mr. Hossain and Mr. Aleksanian’s claims. On October 12, 2016, the agency ruled in favor of the two drivers.
Ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft claim that their drivers are considered independent contractors, not employees, since they can set their own hours. This means that the companies do not have to pay their drivers the minimum wage, nor do they need to offer them benefits like unemployment insurance.
The Taxi Workers Alliance hailed the decision and said this will mean Uber and Lyft will have to reclassify its drivers as employees. In the meantime, the labor group has called on the DOL to audit the two companies to see if their current and former drivers were or are considered to be employees. Many former drivers, according to the Alliance, have also filed for unemployment benefits, but their claims have been denied without being reviewed.
Uber announced it will appeal the decision. The company claimed that, by reclassifying its drivers as employees, costs will rise, and drivers would have to work set shifts for a set number of hours and not be able to use other ride-sharing apps to earn extra money.
If you have been misclassified as an independent contractor, you may have been cheated out of wages and other employee benefits. Contact an experienced New York employment law attorney who can ensure that your rights are protected. Call Steven Mitchell Sack at (917) 371-8000 or email him at sms@StevenSack.com.