LA Drivers File Class Action Against Uber

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Following a California ruling that an Uber driver is an employee not a contractor, two LA-based drivers have filed a class action lawsuit alleging labor violations against the ride-hailing company.
     Uber drivers Lori Kellett and David Cotoi on Thursday sued Uber Technologies in state court for failure to pay overtime, regular wages and for not paying for meal or rest breaks.
     The lawsuit accuses Uber of “indifference and conscious disregard of the rights of all employees” alleging that the San Francisco-based company fails to compensate drivers for maintaining vehicles, paying for smartphones in order to run the Uber app, or fronting the costs of a required $1 million insurance policy.
     If drivers do not own a smartphone they usually have to rent one from Uber for “considerable personal expense,” the filing says.
     State prosecutors have scrutinized Uber and its competitor Lyft. Several complaints are pending against the start-ups.
     California Labor Commissioner dealt a potentially crippling blow to Uber’s business model on June 3, awarding driver Barbara Berwick $4,152 in reimbursable business expenses and interest and finding she was an Uber “employee” rather than independent contractor.
     Uber spokeswoman Trina Smith said that California’s ruling is “non-binding,” applied only to Berwick, and was “contrary to a previous ruling by the same commission.”
     “Six other states have also come to the same conclusion,” Smith said in an email, adding that Uber had appealed.
     This week a federal judge in San Francisco allowed several class action claims against Uber to move forward.
     In the LA class action, the two drivers claim Uber maintains “exclusive control over the rates of pay that drivers will receive.”
     As an “Uber Plus” driver, Cotoi received a higher rate of pay. But his complaint says Uber reclassified him as a basic vehicle service level, or “Uber X,” driver, resulting in an “instantaneous and precipitous drop in his rate of pay.”
     Drivers receive a fraction of cancellation fees, and are paid nothing if Uber decides to waive the fee, the complaint says.
     Uber requires drivers to attend training seminars without pay should they score lower than 4.6 on the company’s star rating system, the filing says. If drivers fall below a “minimum threshold” on the rating system, Uber disconnects their smartphone application and fires them, according to the lawsuit.
     Though drivers are “routinely required to travel to multiple locations in a day, often times traveling hundreds of miles a day in fulfillment of their job duties” they are not reimbursed for their mileage, they say.
     In addition to class certification, the drivers are seeking restitution for business expenses and deductions, as well as a court order enjoining Uber from its alleged unfair business practices.
     The drivers are represented by Todd Friedman of Beverly Hills.

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