Whose Job Is It, Anyway?

Uber and Lyft drivers have filed two separate lawsuits in San Francisco federal court to force their employers to grant them full employee status:

A ruling on full employee status for Uber and Lyft drivers could have wide-ranging implications for the collaborative consumption movement. The new economic model has been able to maximize start-ups’ growth through a largely freelance workforce with few traditional, full-time benefits and lower costs for new businesses.

Beyond full employee status, the plaintiffs are seeking reimbursement for expenses including gasoline and car maintenance costs, which they would normally receive if they had employee standing in California. Drivers for both companies currently are classified as freelancers, and drivers cover such costs themselves.

Plaintiff attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, partner at Boston-based Lichten & Liss-Riordan, said both companies are profiting “massively” from what she describes as a worker misclassification.


As a general rule, it’s rarely a good idea for the courts to get involved in employer-employee relationships, unless there’s actual fraud or coercion going on. It’s probably an even worse idea in emerging industries, where all players are still feeling their way around the new business model and new relationships.

As a happy Uber customer, I’d hate to see their new business model strangled in the crib by one of the most “progressive” courts in the country.


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