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Lyft drivers file class-action lawsuits that could change ride-hailing apps for good

What will it mean for Lyft and Uber?


Ana Valens

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Posted on Nov 2, 2018   Updated on May 21, 2021, 2:38 am CDT

Ride-hailing app Lyft is caught up in two class-action lawsuits that may change the future for rideshare companies. In each case, Lyft drivers argue that they are employees working for Lyft and not independent contractors. That means, according to the drivers, that they are “misclassified” under state law and entitled to lost wages, Ars Technica reports.

Massachusetts Lyft driver Eric Wickberg and California driver Nathaniel Whitson filed two separate class-action lawsuits last month, Wickberg v. Lyft and Whitson v. Lyft, respectively. Both briefs argue that Lyft possesses strong control over its drivers, treating them like employees while profiting at the drivers’ expense.

In particular, Whitson references California’s “ABC” test from this year’s Dynamex v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County case. That ruling thrust the burden of proof onto California employers to prove workers are independent contractors, which means Lyft may face an uphill battle in court against the Whitson brief’s claims, including how Lyft “dictates almost every aspect of how Plaintiff provides transportation services” down to payment rates and resolving customer complaints.

“Lyft (similar to its primary competitor, Uber) has engaged in a ruse to deny drivers like Plaintiff their rights as employees, to the drivers’ financial detriment and Lyft’s financial benefit,” the lawsuit argues. “Under federal and California law, Plaintiff should have been classified as an employee, as he provides a service that benefits Defendants.”

If the court sides with the plaintiffs, the cases’ demands could cause a ripple effect that changes how Lyft, Uber, and other ride-hailing services do business in both states. Wickberg requests the court state that Lyft drivers in Massachusetts are employees, while Whitson asks the court to declare Lyft’s “policies and practices” outlined in the brief as “unlawful under the laws of California.” Both lawsuits also request Lyft provide payment for lost wages, among other associated damages.

Other drivers in Massachusetts and California could join the lawsuit as well. While Lyft has an anti-class-action lawsuit arbitration agreement that largely prevents disputes from being handled through litigation, both Wickberg and Whitson opted out of that clause prior to the lawsuit. Both argue that this lets them sue on behalf of other Lyft drivers, even those that did not opt out of the agreement.

“A class action is the superior method of trying these claims,” Wickberg’s brief argues. “The expense and burden of individual litigation makes it impractical for members of the Class to seek redress individually for the wrongful conduct alleged herein.”


H/T Ars Technica

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*First Published: Nov 2, 2018, 10:30 am CDT