Uber and Lyft drivers who have been injured while transporting passengers in the past have run into significant roadblocks while trying to obtain compensation for those injuries. Rideshare services like Lyft and Uber have aggressively and consistently argued that all of their drivers are independent contractors and are not employees. This makes a huge difference as employees are entitled to many things that independent contractors are not, such as receiving a minimum wage, overtime pay or workers’ compensation benefits if they’re hurt on the job.
A recent federal court ruling offers some potential good news for drivers hurt on the job. These types of rulings should remind drivers that, if you’re hurt while driving for Uber or Lyft, there may be more options for compensation than you might have thought, so be sure to reach out to an experienced Chicago workers’ compensation attorney right away.
In that federal court case, no one was injured, but the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling still has the potential to help injured drivers. In the case, a driver in New Jersey, J.S., brought a class action lawsuit against Uber for its failure to pay him overtime compensation. The key to J.S.’s case was his argument was that Uber had engaged in misclassifying its drivers as independent contractors when the true nature of the relationship was one of employee-employer. That was vital because, generally, non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay, whereas independent contractors are not.
In many cases like this, employers find litigating the matter before an arbitrator more advantageous to them than litigating in court. For that reason, they often insert into their contractual agreements clauses that call for mandatory arbitration. Workers, on the other hand, may often find court to be the better place to litigate. As a result, one of the key junctures on the path to success often is defeating the defense’s demand for arbitration.
Federal exemption possibly applies to Uber drivers
Uber made such a demand in J.S.’s case. The Third Circuit, though, ruled that the federal law that governs arbitrations – specifically, the provision that laid out the disputes that were exempt from arbitration – could possibly include transportation workers who transport passengers, and not just drivers who transport goods. In other words, it could potentially include people like Uber drivers.
That may all sound extremely complex, but think of your case as a series of hurdles to jump over. Getting your case resolved in court instead of arbitration is often the first hurdle, as it was in J.S.’s case. This ruling gave J.S. a renewed opportunity to clear that hurdle. Once that hurdle is cleared, then that opens up the ability to take the case to a federal judge and clear the second hurdle by showing that drivers are employees, not independent contractors.
J.S.’s case was about overtime, but these independent-contractor-versus-employee classification arguments (and rulings) impact injured Uber and Lyft drivers, too. If you are hurt while driving, then you may be entitled to recover a significant amount in workers’ compensation benefits. But, just a like in a minimum wage or overtime case, you must first clear the hurdle of showing that you are an employee, not an independent contractor.
If you are injured as an Uber driver or passenger, or a Lyft driver or passenger, you may have options within the legal system to get important compensation you need. Contact the skilled Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca for the legal advice and advocacy upon which you can confidently rely. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.