A former Washington state Uber driver has filed a lawsuit alleging he was wrongfully classified as an independent contractor by the ride-sharing company, meaning he hasn’t received compensation and employee benefits he’s owed, according to court records.
The class action lawsuit, which originated last month in Washington state District Court but was transferred to federal court this week, seeks at least $44.5 million in damages on behalf of the more than 15,000 people who have driven for Uber in Washington state since the service launched here in 2011.
The case is just one of many legal challenges facing Uber. The company argues that its drivers aren’t employees, instead operating as independent contractors who use their own equipment and set their own hours.
As part of that, Uber says they aren’t entitled to traditional benefits.
Uber is already battling the issue in California, a case that has been closely watched given its potentially far-reaching implications for the heavily-funded transportation company.
Now, as Washington state drivers join the fray, Uber will be fighting the war on two fronts.
Update: Uber sent the following statement in regards to the pending litigation:
“Driver-partners are independent contractors who use Uber on their own terms: they control their use of the app. Nearly 90 percent of drivers say the main reason they use Uber is because they love being their own boss. As employees, drivers would have set shifts, earn a fixed hourly wage, and lose the ability to drive with ridesharing apps – as well as the personal flexibility they most value.”
Joshua Fisher is the only named plaintiff in the Washington case right now, but he’s seeking damages for all drivers across the state, according to court records. He claims Uber violated several Washington state labor laws, like withholding gratuities, not keeping payroll records and not paying minimum wages or overtime.
Top among his allegations is that he was treated like an employee, but not classified as such. Fisher, who stopped driving for Uber in 2013, says he wasn’t reimbursed for any work-related expenses, like gas, tolls, cellphone bills, insurance or car repairs. From his 11 months with the company, he claims he is personally owed at least $1,680 in expenses alone.
Among the other allegations, Fisher says that Uber collects built-in tips from riders, but didn’t pass those gratuities along to him. That, he argues, adds up to at least $1,152.
When asked to clarify its gratuity policy, an Uber spokesperson said riders don’t need to tip when using the service. There’s also no way for users to add a tip through the app.
Fisher’s lawyers say they plan to seek at least $44.5 million in damages on behalf of Washington state Uber drivers, according to court records.
Reached by phone on Friday morning, one of Fisher’s lawyer said they plan to fight the case in federal courts. He asked us to contact him by email for more information, but has not yet responded to request for official comment.
Here’s the full complaint: