SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Uber and Lyft, which pulled out of Austin, Texas, two days after voters refused to repeal fingerprint-based security checks, face federal class actions accusing them of making illegal mass layoffs without notice.
Austin voters on May 7 roundly rejected an Uber- and Lyft-financed proposition that would have repealed a city law requiring driving history and criminal background checks on drivers. The next day, both companies announced they would stop work in Austin, and both did so the day after that.
“Contact your City Council member now to tell them you want Lyft back,” Lyft said in a mass message to its customers.
Days before the election, a federal class action accused Uber of illegally spamming cellphones, urging people to vote for Proposition 1, which lost, 44 to 56 percent.
The companies’ political action committee, Ridesharing Works for Austin, spent $10 million on the election, according to the Austin Chronicle.
On Thursday, former drivers sued against both companies, claiming they violated the WARN Act. The Worker Adjustment or Retraining Notification Act requires employers with more than 100 employees to give employees 60 days notice before mass layoffs.
Lead plaintiffs Todd Johnston for Uber and David Thorton for Lyft say the companies still have not “provided any form of WARN Act notice to its Austin drivers.”
The virtually identical complaints say the companies must provide 60 days worth of back pay to the plaintiffs and other drivers. Both lawsuits, filed by the same law firms, say the Northern District of California is an appropriate venue due to similar lawsuits pending there.
Nor are the plaintiffs happy that Uber and Lyft spent what they estimate as $8 million on a PAC that attacked Democratic City Council members who opposed Proposition 1.
“Uber gave significant amounts of money went to politically conservative right-wing PACs and individuals described as ‘experienced Republican operatives’ in efforts to both defeat the ordinance and to personally ridicule and politically attack Austin City Council members in support of the ordinance,” Johnston’s complaint says, in identical language, except for the name of the company, to Thorston’s complaint.
They accuse the companies of targeting Democrat Ann Kitchen in particular, creating an app with a horse and buggy image and naming it after her to ridicule her.
“The result is that thousands of Austin Uber and Lyft drivers have lost their jobs and incomes,” the drivers say.
They seek class certification, declaratory judgment that the companies violated the WARN Act, an injunction, 60 days lost wages and benefits, statutory damages and penalties.
Plaintiffs in both cases are represented by Thomas Brandi, of San Francisco, and Michael Slack, of Bee Cave, Texas.
Uber and Lyft did not respond to emailed requests for comment sent after business hours Thursday.
Both companies face rafts of lawsuits accusing them of a welter of labor law violations and other infractions — Uber 592 lawsuits and Lyft 99, in the Courthouse News database.
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