In what could be the start of a protracted court fight, attorneys for the state of California plan to ask a judge to order Uber and Lyft to classify their ride-hailing drivers as employees rather than contractors, Reuters reported.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said his office will file a request for a preliminary injunction in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco. A hearing is set for Aug. 6.
In response, Uber said most drivers prefer independence working as contractors. The San Francisco-based global ride-hailing company said more than 158,000 Uber drivers in California would lose work if the reclassification happens.
Lyft and the office for the state’s attorney general did not respond to Reuter’s request for comment.
Two weeks ago, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the state agency that regulates ride-hailing companies, said Uber and Lyft drivers are considered employees under the new gig work law. In a letter to the companies, Director Douglas Ito reminded them of the July 1 deadline to secure workers’ compensation coverage for drivers.
Last month, Becerra and municipal attorneys from three California cities filed suit in the Superior Court of San Francisco against Lyft and Uber for allegedly misclassifying drivers as independent contractors. The attorneys alleged the contractor classification deprives drivers of workplace protections. The lawsuit seeks restitution, civil penalties and a permanent stop to the alleged misclassification.
“Californians who drive for Uber and Lyft lack basic worker protections, from paid sick leave to the right to overtime pay. Uber and Lyft claim their drivers aren’t engaged in the companies’ core mission and cannot qualify for benefits,” Becerra said. “Sometimes it takes a pandemic to shake us into realizing what that really means and who suffers the consequences. Uber and Lyft drivers who contract the coronavirus or lose their job quickly realize what they’re missing.”
On Nov. 3, California voters will have their say.
A ballot initiative propelled by a $30 million campaign by Uber, Lyft and DoorDash to repeal the California gig economy workers law regarding will be on the ballot. The effort is in response to California’s AB5, which restricts the types of workers that these companies could call independent contractors, changing the rules on who has to be classified as an employee instead.