The well-known ride-share app/company, Lyft, is facing another class action lawsuit that claims the group intentionally misclassifies their drivers as independent contractors. The misclassification class action lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of California by Donald Brunner Jr., Lyft driver. Serving as a representative of Lyft drivers, the Burbank resident has been driving for the company full time since March 2016. According to claims made in the lawsuit, Brunner worked 42 to 70 hours per week since he started driving for Lyft and logged between 500 and 1,100 miles per week. He claims that he (and other Lyft drivers) were refused reimbursement of expenses, overtime pay, minimum wage, and other rights employees are provided by law.
It’s not the first time Lyft has faced a lawsuit. In fact, it’s not the first time Lyft has faced a lawsuit over a driver classification violation allegation. The company just settled a previous lawsuit over driver classification in June. The terms of the settlement were not made public. In 2017, Lyft settled another misclassification lawsuit for $27 million after close to four years of litigation. Since that settlement, the California Supreme Court issued the Dynamex decision that opened the door to more misclassification lawsuits aimed at the gig economy. Filed in the wake of the Dynamex decision, another lawsuit, Norton v. Lyft is still in litigation. Another, similarly structured ride-share app company, Uber, settled a case in early 2019 for $20 million. (This particular case was in litigation for six years). Uber arguments were supported in this case by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that arbitration clauses drivers agree to prior to working with Uber direct legal issues to an arbitration proceeding rather than court proceedings; effectively blocking class actions.
In Brunner’s case, the plaintiffs’ legal counsel argue that Lyft waived their arbitration rights when they did not pay required fees to the American Arbitration Association (AAA), which was allegedly part of the agreement as outlined in the terms of service. Since AAA requires fees in advance of any hearing, when Lyft refused to pay it basically blocked arbitration. In addition, the plaintiffs present fairly standard arguments for driver misclassification including that Lyft is entirely dependent on drivers to provide services, drivers do not have meaningful degrees of business autonomy, drivers do not set their own rates or build business relationships with customers for repeat services, the company controls the terms of employment and requires drivers to maintain certain standards (drivers cannot cancel rides without consequences from the company), and the 15-second acceptance rate for rides prevents drivers from being actively engaged in any other meaningful activity when not providing Lyft services.
If you have a misclassification claim, please get in touch with Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP, our employment law attorneys have the resources and experience companies fear in litigation. Our labor lawyers make sure that our clients get ALL of the wages they are owed when companies violate California labor laws.