Judge Grants Uber and Lyft a Temporary Stay

The ongoing battle between ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber,and the state of California, continues with an appeals judge extending a temporary stay, CNBC reported. This gives Uber and Lyft more time in which to comply with an order requiring the companies to reclassify their drivers as employees.

The situation began with a California law called AB5, when went into affect on January 1, 2020. It requires companies that hire independent contractors to reclassify them as employees.

On August 10, 2020, California Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman ordered Uber and Lyft to reclassify their contract drivers as employees with the same protections and benefits as other staffers. Those workers would be entitled to workers comp, unemployment, paid sick and family leave, and health insurance.

AB5 allows independent contractors to be classified as employees if the employers can verify that that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business (among other things).

It seems to me that Uber and Lyft, both of whom are ride-sharing companies, are going to have a difficult time trying to convince a judge that their workers are performing work that is outside the usual course the hiring entity’s business. The workers are driving their own vehicles and picking up and dropping off passengers. That’s literally the main purpose of ride-sharing companies!

Both Lyft and Uber posted blogs that can be summarized as a threat to users of their services. Each made it clear that they would shut down service in California. The blog posts also push people to vote for Proposition 22 which, if it gets enough votes, would reverse AB5. Lyft later updated their blog post to note that rideshare is back on, thanks to the stay.

As a person who lives in California, and who is also disabled, I think Lyft and Uber should not have threatened users with a stoppage of service. I rely on them to get me to and from appointments with health care providers. It feels like Uber and Lyft never bothered to consider how an abrupt stoppage of service could become a huge difficulty for people who cannot drive.

The Guardian reported that Proposition 22 has millions of dollars in backing from Uber and Lyft as well as other gig economy firms that are affected by the law. It appears that Lyft and Uber have plenty of money to fund Proposition 22 – which directly benefits them and harms their workers. They should use that money to do the right thing and comply with AB5.