3 Things That California Rideshare Drivers Need To Know About Getting Paid Fairly

3 Things That California Rideshare Drivers Need To Know About Getting Paid Fairly

(From Award-Winning Wage & Hour Lawyers)

Data shared by Uber and Lyft reveals that together, the companies have about half a million (514,000, to be precise) rideshare drivers in the state of California. How these hundreds of thousands of California Uber and Lyft drivers get paid has been the subject of intense legal debate in recent years. Uber and Lyft maintain that their drivers are independent contractors, not employees of the company; however, many drivers are arguing that they should be treated as employees, and that Uber and Lyft are making an incorrect classification in order to pay them less.

As experienced California wage & hour lawyers, we know that workers - including rideshare drivers - have legal rights and deserve to be paid fairly for their labor. However, as laws are shifting and lawsuits are pending, it can be complicated for rideshare drivers to understand their rights. Because we know that many Uber and Lyft drivers aren’t aware of the wage debate or of their rights, we’re taking this blog to share 5 things that California rideshare drivers need to know about getting paid fairly!

1 - Currently, Uber And Lyft Drivers Are Considered Independent Contractors, But That May Change.

Uber and Lyft have traditionally classified their drivers as independent contractors. In California, independent contractors are different from employees, and have different rights under the law.

Employees get workers’ compensation insurance, overtime pay, taxes withheld, and other benefits; independent contractors do not. The difference between independent contractors primarily has to do with how much control they have over their work. A worker is considered to be an independent contractor if they….

  • [are] free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact;
  • perform work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
  • are customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

While there are exceptions to these criteria, many drivers believe that this description generally does not describe the role of California rideshare drivers, which has led to an all-out legal battle between the company, the courts, the workers, and the politicians.

The debate goes back before 2019, but in that year, California legislators proposed a law - the Assembly Bill 5, AB5, or “gig law”, as it was popularly called - that required companies like Uber and Lyft to classify their drivers as employees. The bill was passed in September of 2020. Uber and Lyft retaliated with a ballot measure known as Proposition 22 that would allow them to keep their employees classified as independent contractors and offer limited benefits. Proposition 22 was a hot political topic, and passed in November of 2020 with about 59% of the vote, effectively overriding AB5.

However, the opponents of Prop 22 sued in January, arguing that the measure was unconstitutional. The California Supreme Court declined to hear the case, but the group brought their plea to a lower court; in August of 2021, Judge Frank Roesch of the California Superior Court in Alameda County ruled that indeed, Proposition 22 is unconstitutional. This obviously infuriated the companies, including Uber and Lyft, who were behind Prop 22, as they had poured about $200 million into the measure. They are currently in the process of appealing. If the appeal fails, then it is possible that California rideshare drivers could start getting paid and treated like employees; however, for now, Uber and Lyft say they aren’t changing anything until the appeal process is complete, even though the judge declared the law unconstitutional. There’s a fight still ongoing and a lot of gray area right now, but if you are currently a rideshare driver, the company is treating you as if you are an independent contractor.

2 - Independent Contractors In California Are Still Entitled To….

Even though California rideshare drivers have not yet and may not be granted employee status (which gives you the right to minimum wage, overtime pay, meal periods, and rest breaks), you still have other important legal rights as an independent contractor, including the right to….

3 - A California Wage & Hour Attorney Can Fight For Your Rights

If you are a rideshare driver who believes you are being underpaid, the best course of action is to speak directly with a wage & hour attorney who can help you fight for justice; it’s impossible to determine if you specifically have a case just from online research. However, there are lawsuits pending, and the outcome of the Proposition 22 appeal will determine much for individuals. You may be entitled to backpay and compensation if Proposition 22 is ultimately declared unconstitutional, and perhaps even if it isn’t. Uber is proposing a nearly $10 million dollar class action settlement for drivers who feel that they have been misclassified as independent contractors; you potentially stand to win some of that amount.

At Southern California Attorneys, A.P.C., we have over 60 years of combined experience on our talented, multilingual legal team. We have been named in the top 10% of attorneys in the nation by the Lawyers of Distinction, and we have recovered significant settlements for wronged employees across the state of California. Call today to schedule a free consultation with our wage and hour lawyers and learn more about what we may be able to recover for you. If we win, our legal fees may be paid by your rideshare employer - you never pay anything upfront for our help. Consultations are complimentary and completely confidential until you decide to take legal action!