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Unpaid Wages and Uber Drivers

Do federal labor laws apply to Uber and Lyft drivers? In particular, can Uber drivers file claims for unpaid wages? Examining the trend of recent litigation in both Florida and Illinois, drivers are taking action. Indeed, new lawsuits in both Florida (Lamour v. Uber Technologies, Inc. 1:16-cv-21449) and Illinois (Charles Christopher Johnson v. Uber Technologies, Inc. 1:16-cv-05468) are coming on the heels of other lawsuits against Uber, following the company’s proposal to settle for $100 million in those other cases. The drivers in the most recent claims, including the Florida lawsuit, allege that “Uber has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act,” and as such they “seek to recover unpaid overtime wages and other expenses.”

Details of the Uber Drivers’ Claims

Fortune magazine recently covered the trend in Uber and Lyft litigation. The magazine highlights that a $100 million settlement for previous claims against the ride-hailing company is not actually such a high price tag given that Uber has “raised more than $8 billion in funding.” However, it could be looking at another substantial payout depending on the outcome of these more recently filed claims. What are the allegations in the current lawsuits?

In short, Uber drivers want overtime pay, but they are currently treated as independent contractors under the law. This allows them to determine their own hours and to work when they want to and are able to do so. And indeed, these aspects of freedom that accompany the job of an Uber driver tend to be what attracts people to the work in the first place. The article explains that, “nearly 90 percent of drivers say the main reason they use Uber is because they love being their own boss.” However, if Uber drivers were to become legal employees of the company, they would not be able to keep these freedoms. Rather, “as employees, drivers would have set shifts, earn a fixed hourly wage, and lose the ability to drive with other ridesharing apps—as well as the personal flexibility they most value,” according to a spokesperson for Uber.

Why are the drivers in Florida and Illinois not part of the settlement that is currently in the works? The $100 million settlement will only cover drivers in California and Massachusetts. As such, drivers in other states—beyond Florida and Illinois—may soon be filing claims of their own. In addition to the financial payout of the settlement, drivers included within it would be able to “form local associations,” and Uber would make clearer that drivers can receive tips.

Fair Labor Standards Act, Unpaid Wages, and Contractors

Do workers who are classified as contractors receive protection under the FLSA in the same manner as employees? In other words, can independent contractors, too, seek unpaid overtime by filing a claim?

According to a fact sheet on overtime pay from the U.S. Department of Labor, employees who are covered by the FLSA are entitled to receive overtime pay when they work in excess of 40 hours per week. This is the reason that the Uber spokesperson quoted above talked about set shifts and fixed hourly wages—in short, independent contractors are not entitled to overtime pay under the FLSA in the way that employees may be entitled to this. As such, if Uber drivers want to be paid for overtime hours beyond 40 hours per week that they work, they may need to give up the freedoms associated with being an independent contractor instead of an employee.

If you have questions about filing a claim under the FLSA or have questions about unpaid overtime wages, a West Palm Beach labor lawyer can assist you. Contact Scott • Wagner and Associates today for more information about our services.

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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