Workers that rely on a gig economy, especially those that drive for the likes of ride-hailing app companies Uber and Lyft, have just won another landmark case in their quest to be recognized as full employees and not independent contractors.
In New York earlier this week, a judge ruled that the state has to pull its finger out and pay Uber and Lyft drivers unemployment benefits, The New York Times reports.
The judge hearing the case, LaShann DeArcy Hall, said there had been “an avoidable and inexcusable delay in the payment of unemployment insurance.”
The case, filed back in May, alleged that New York State had been delaying paying drivers unemployment benefits and were taking months to process claims. In other jobs the process is said to take up to a few weeks.
While the case was lodged against the state, Uber and Lyft were also reportedly adding to the backlog of employment benefit cases by withholding useful driver earnings data. If the state had this information, it would have been able to process claims much faster.
During the court hearing, the state’s lawyer said that Uber and Lyft had been playing “games,” which stopped the relevant government authorities from getting their hands on driver earnings information. According to the report, the ride-hailing companies had been fighting unemployment eligibility decisions, only to withdraw their appeal, which prevented a final decision that could be used as precedent for other drivers from being made.
There were some 294 cases where Uber was identified as employer and the company appealed 227 of them. It later abandoned over 200 of the appeals. Lyft used a similar tactic where it was identified as employer in 78 cases, it then abandoned nine of its 11 appeals.
As part of the ruling, state authorities have been given 45 days to resolve the backlog of benefit claims, and will train a special team to identity and process the requests.
It’s worth noting that this was just a preliminary injunction brought about by the need for a quick resolution for drivers that are going without vital unemployment support. As such, the state does have the opportunity to appeal the outcome, but there’s no sign at the moment if it will.
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