Uber Ducks Massachusetts Drivers’ Wage Claims

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge ruled that Uber drivers can’t pursue claims that they are entitled to compensation under Massachusetts minimum- and overtime-wage law for time spent waiting for ride requests, but can proceed with deceptive advertising claims.
     At a hearing last week, Uber attorney Theodore Boutrous told U.S. District Judge Edward Chen that a class led by former Uber driver Hakan Yucesoy had failed to show how Uber’s marketing campaign about tips being included in the price paid persuaded riders not to give them.
     Yucesoy’s original complaint, filed in Massachusetts in 2014, claimed that Uber ran a pervasive online ad campaign that told riders they need not tip their drivers because gratuities are included in the cost of the ride in violation of the Massachusetts Tips law. The case was transferred to Northern California because of a contract clause requiring lawsuits to be handled in San Francisco.
     As he indicated from the bench at the hearing, Chen disagreed with Uber and wrote that the class was not required to be so specific in its complaint.
     He noted that statements made by Uber like “There’s no need to hand your driver any payment and the tip is included,” over the last three years, are sufficient to plead a tips law violation.
     But Chen also found that Uber drivers were not specific enough in their claim that they should be paid for time spent waiting for customers while logged in to the Uber app.
     While the drivers claimed that they are required by Uber to accept “most” of the rider requests they receive or risk deactivation, Chen said they don’t describe exactly how many they must accept, the enormity of the risk, or even how often they get requests.
     “Without such information, it is unclear what ability drivers have to conduct personal business while logged onto the app,” Chen wrote. “While plaintiffs argued at the hearing that they should be permitted to find such information in discovery, plaintiffs at the very least should know generally how often they receive ride requests and what the stated risk of termination is for not accepting requests; although they have access to such information, they failed to allege specific facts.”
     Chen dismissed the class’ claim with prejudice, along with a breach of contract claim which alleged drivers are third-party beneficiaries in Uber’s contracts with its customers.
     “Plaintiffs here provide no such explanation, but instead ground their third-party beneficiary claim on the conclusory statement that the drivers are third-party beneficiaries, without any supporting facts from the contract or the circumstances of the contract,” Chen wrote.

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