Worker misclassification is a major issue in many employment lawsuits. Often he question is whether the worker should be classified as an employee or an independent contractor. Workers classified as employees are afforded certain protections under the law, including workers' compensation, the minimum wage, overtime pay and the right to organize as a union. Independent contractors are not guaranteed those protections.
The determination of whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor involves a number of factors, a major one being the measure of control the business exacts over how the worker behaves and does his or her job. These issues relate directly to two federal lawsuits brought by drivers for Lyft and Uber.
Currently, drivers for Lyft and Uber are classified as independent contractors. In their separate lawsuits, the drivers say that because the companies exact certain controls over driver conduct and performance, the drivers should instead be classified as employees and have the protections legally afforded to employees.
Internal emails from Uber indicate that the company will "deactivate" a driver if his or her passenger rating falls below a certain point. Uber also conducts background checks on drivers and sets their fares.
Lyft's "Rules of the Road" require drivers to ensure that their vehicles are "100%" clutter-free, and to offer fist-bumps to passengers.
Both California judges hearing the cases have expressed skepticism over the companies' claims that the drivers are independent contractors. In addition to employee status, the drivers are seeking reimbursement for work-related expenses.
For a fuller picture of your rights as a worker, please visit Serrins Fisher's Wage and Hour Law overview.