Uber and Lyft claim their workers are contractors. The state of New York ruled that they’re employees, and therefore are entitled to certain benefits. (California did so, too.) Despite this decision, rideshare drivers are having a difficult time obtaining unemployment payments and pandemic assistance. According to The New York Times, four drivers and the New York Taxi Workers Alliance have filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that the government has illegally failed to disburse the money the drivers are entitled to. They allege that -- due to the gray area between being a contractor and an employee -- their payments are being held up for months while other unemployed people are receiving their payments within a few weeks.
Typically, employers provide the state government with data on employees’ earnings. However, according to the lawsuit, New York has not compelled Uber or Lyft to do so. This means that in order to qualify for benefits, the drivers themselves have to supply that information, fill out more paperwork and take more steps than a typical worker. One driver says he’s had to make hundreds of calls and still hasn’t received any payment. If successful, the lawsuit will force the government to provide benefits to drivers -- the plaintiffs and rideshare drivers at large -- immediately.
Hopefully this lawsuit helps drivers who are running out of money during the coronavirus pandemic to make ends meet. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance says that 82 percent of taxi and rideshare drivers are having difficulty paying for food and that 76 percent were unable to pay rent for the past two months. There clearly is a need for services like Uber and Lyft, but workers -- whether they’re contractors or employees -- need to make a livable wage and be able to survive an emergency. As the gig-economy grows, it seems like more problems like this could arise.