“The failure of the Department of Labor in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic when the difference between receiving [unemployment insurance] performance in two weeks instead of two months can determine whether an unemployed New Yorker can put food on the table, which is devastating for thousands of drivers and their families, the vast majority of whom are immigrants, “the complaint said.
The complaint mentions previous legal decisions that established that drivers for rideshare apps were “employees” rather than “independent contractors” under the law. Independent contractors must demonstrate their earnings and employment status. While a 2018 unemployment insurance appeal board ruled that app-based drivers are legally employed, there is still a case of this issue pending in an upstate appellate court.
The drivers’ complaint also claims that although some drivers have submitted their earnings information to the Department of Labor, they have been told that they would receive $ 0 in unemployment benefits.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in the Eastern District of New York, was filed by four drivers and the New York Taxi Workers Alliance against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the State Department of Labor and its commissioner.
Cuomo’s office said app-based workers in the state are receiving unemployment benefits through pandemic unemployment assistance, but did not specify how many drivers had received benefits. An office spokesman said the administration is working with all parties to make sure it has the information it needs to deliver the benefits as quickly as possible.
“During this emergency pandemic, we moved heaven and earth to get every single New Yorker unemployed their benefits as quickly as possible – including Uber and Lyft drivers who are not treated differently from any other worker, and during this crisis, unemployment benefits are being received through the Pandemic unemployment assistance program are faster than most other states, “said spokesman Jack Sterne. “New York launched our Pandemic unemployment assistance application weeks before other states and we are now processing more than 100,000 PUA applications per week.”
Sterne said the state has been able to give over $ 10 billion in benefits to 2 million unemployed New Yorkers since April.
Part of the problem, the lawsuit claims, is that the Department of Labor has failed to force app-based rental vehicle rental companies to share payroll data for drivers.
An Uber spokesman said the company shared the data with the requested New York state, and a Lyft spokesman said the company is fully prepared to provide driver earnings information to the state’s Department of Labor. .
“The special interests behind this lawsuit aren’t interested in what’s best for drivers, since filing this lawsuit will do nothing to help them get assistance quickly,” said Lyft spokeswoman Julie Wood. “We are partnering with DOL to provide them with access to earnings data and we are doing all we can to help drivers get the assistance they deserve.”
Uber did not comment on the lawsuit. Uber and Lyft are not among the parties sued.
The plaintiffs ask a judge to order New York State to stop classifying app-based drivers as independent contractors, to stop making “wrong” decisions on the monetary benefits of $ 0 for drivers, to force companies like Uber and Lyft to share driver earnings data with the Department of Labor and immediately issue unemployment benefits to drivers who have filed claims.
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