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Contractors or Drivers? The Case for Uber Workers’ Employment Benefits

Uber is quickly becoming recognized as one of the most profitable ride-hailing companies in the world. Business Insider reports the company, although only being a few years old, is already operating in 58 countries and is valued at over $50 billion.  Although Uber was just recently allowed by the legislature to operate in the state, Nevadans are already familiar with the ride-hailing company.  According to the Reno Gazette-Journal Uber first made its appearance in Las Vegas during the fall of 2014, but was soon stopped pursuant to a restraining order.  A judge ruled Uber had to follow the same rules as taxi cabs in order to operate in the state of Nevada.  However in May of 2015 the Nevada legislature voted to allow ride-hailing services in the state. The Reno Gazette-Journal also reported the Nevada Transportation Authority approved applications by both Lyft and Uber in September of 2015.

 

Uber Driver Misclassification

Currently, there is much debate over the legal status of Uber drivers.  The Los Angeles Times reported there were two active class action lawsuits being filed against Uber in California on the topic of “worker misclassification.” The suits focus on very similar claims, but mainly that Uber drivers may classify as a type of employee, rather than independent contractors.  The difference is not only semantic.  Being classified as employees would require Uber to provide certain benefits to its drivers, including workers’ compensation benefits.

 

The same issue was recently brought in front of Alaskan courts.  KTVA CBS 11 News reported the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Workers’ Compensation Division brought Uber before the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board for violating the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Act.  The claims against Uber alleged the company was misclassifying its employees as independent contractors.  Misclassification would allow a company to avoid paying unemployment insurance, taxes, and workers’ compensation premiums.  In the end Uber paid a settlement to the Alaska Workers’ Compensation fund of $77,925, but admitted no wrongdoing.

 

Opportunity and Benefits for Drivers

USA Today reported in early December 2015 that the ride-hailing company would be allowed to pick up fares at McCarran International Airport.  This comes after ongoing agreements with the company and the airport.  It is still not clear if Uber Drivers will ever be considered employees in Nevada.  According to the New Yorker there may be a middle ground for Uber drivers.  There could be the creation of a new class which makes employers responsible for some costs like workers’ compensation and worker expenses, but not other costs like Social Security.  There is no telling whether such a class could ever be implemented.

 

If you are contemplating working as a driver for a ride-hailing company in Nevada the flexibility of the work may be appealing, but you may want to make sure that you have adequate insurance coverage.  You may not have access to workers’ compensation benefits like you would at another job.  There are individual insurance options in which you may look into.  If you are an Uber Driver and are been injured on the job, but are not covered by workers’ compensation benefits you should contact a licensed Nevada workers’ compensation attorney to discuss all of your options.

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