California Uber drivers score a win after court partially allows class-action lawsuit for pre-Prop 22 payments

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California Uber drivers score a win after court partially allows class-action lawsuit for pre-Prop 22 payments
Drivers in California sued Uber and Lyft, claiming the companies owe them $630 million in back wages.Mario Tama/Getty Images
  • Uber must face a class action lawsuit from 4,800 drivers in California, a court ruled Tuesday.
  • Drivers sued over Uber's refusal to pay employment benefits under AB-5 before Prop 22 passed.
  • The ruling lets them sue together over expenses and pay statements, but only separately on pay amounts, overtime, and sick leave.
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A federal court handed Uber drivers in California a small victory on Tuesday, allowing them to proceed with some parts of their class action lawsuit over employment benefits they claim the company owes them.

The court ruled that a group of approximately 4,800 drivers can collectively sue Uber for allegedly denying them expense reimbursements and itemized pay statements - benefits guaranteed to all employees under state law - by misclassifying them as independent contractors prior to Proposition 22's passage.

However, the court said drivers will have to bring claims individually over whether Uber failed to pay them the minimum wage, overtime, and paid sick leave - which employees are also guaranteed.

Uber did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Several drivers brought the lawsuit against Uber last year after the company refused to reclassify them as employees following California's passage of AB-5, which sought to extend the state's existing labor protections to a wider group of workers.

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California eventually sued Uber and Lyft for not complying with the law, state regulators determined it did apply to both companies, and a state appeals court agreed.

But as legal challenges from Uber and Lyft were pending, voters passed Proposition 22, a company-backed ballot initiative that exempted rideshare and food delivery app companies from complying with AB-5.

That new law, which specifically designated drivers and delivery workers for those apps as independent contractors, went into effect in December. But drivers alleged that, in the time after AB-5 went into effect but before Prop 22 did, Uber should have been treating them as employees.

As a result, the drivers claimed, Uber violated California's labor laws by failing to: reimburse business expenses, pay the minimum wage, pay overtime, provide itemized pay statements, and provide paid sick leave.

The lawsuit is among several Uber is facing over worker classification, which could put the company on the hook for substantial back payments to drivers. California's supreme court also recently ruled that Dynamex, a court ruling that became the legal basis for AB-5, applies retroactively, which could make gig companies liable for back payments dating back several years before AB-5's passage.

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