[A suit] filed Thursday in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston by Shannon Liss-Riordan…accuses Uber of misclassifying its drivers as independent contractors to avoid paying them the same as employees with benefits.
The case also charges that Uber does not give drivers the total proceeds they receive from gratuities and "retains a portion of the gratuity for itself." That alleged conduct violates the Massachusetts Tips Law, said Liss-Riordan….
Liss-Riordan has filed a similar labor case against Uber in US District Court in California, where the company is based. The federal judge presiding in that case ordered Uber in May to allow its drivers to opt out of an arbitration clause in their contract with the company. That clause prevents drivers from joining Liss-Riordan's class action lawsuit.
While the fact that Uber drivers generally work when and as they will without shifts assigned by the company, and receive not a set salary but merely portions of what they directly earn via using the company's app, might lead to a common-sense decision that they are not "employees" but independent contractors using and paying for a service that Uber supplies (the app), apparently Massachusetts has a more curious definition:
Massachusetts has some of the most stringent employment laws in the country. Under state law, for workers not to be considered as employees they must do work for a company that is "outside the usual course of business of the employer."
"All we have to prove is that Uber is a car service and that the people who drive their cars are employees," said Liss-Riordan. "Everyone who does the work should be an employee."
While noting they don't intend to comment specifically on ongoing litigation, an Uber spokesperson this morning said via email that in general the company "will vigorously defend the rights of riders to enjoy competition and choice, and for drivers to build their own small business."