By Tanner Stening MassLive Staff | July 14, 2020
Attorney General Maura Healey is filing suit against Uber and Lyft, alleging the companies have misclassified their workers as independent contractors to avoid having to provide the benefits enjoyed by employees under Massachusetts law.
Healey said the state is asking for declaratory judgment on the question of whether ride-hail workers are independent contractors or employees under state law. The suit is also seeking an injunction requiring that the companies provide the protections employees in Massachusetts enjoy.
“We’re asking the court to rule, once and for all, that (Uber and Lyft) drivers are employees,” Healey said during a virtual press conference on Tuesday.
Ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft maintain that their workers are independent contractors, meaning they don’t have access to employment benefits like paid sick time, workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance.
“Many of the workers drive for … well over 40 hours of the work week, and yet do not get workers’ comp, overtime pay, unemployment or health insurance or retirement plans,” said Steve Tolman, president of the state’s AFL-CIO. “And we’ve all seen how important in this pandemic unemployment insurance is.”
Asked about the timing of the lawsuit, Healey said the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the needs of ride-hail workers, many of whom aren’t even making minimum wage. Uber and Lyft drivers are also classified as essential workers during the pandemic.
Healey estimates that there are as many as 200,000 ride-hail drivers in Massachusetts, though the exact number is uncertain.
“Now is an important time to think about what has happened generally speaking in the employment landscape,” she said.
Massachusetts isn’t the only state fighting the ride-share giants of the so-called gig economy. California’s attorney general launched a similar suit against Uber and Lyft, demanding that they treat their workers as employees instead of contractors if the company controls how the daily work is carried out, according to the New York Times.
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