Earlier this month, I wrote about a Uber Workers’ Compensation case in California. In that case the court ruled the driver was not a contract worker and was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits after being hurt on the job. This week the state of Florida has ruled that Uber driver’s are employees and are entitled to unemployment compensation.
In both Florida and California, the main issue is whether the drivers are employees or contractors. Uber would like for the people to be contractors. Uber can limit liability, would not have to pay for Workers’ Compensation insurance or pay taxes for employees. Uber would claim that the contractors use their own equipment, set their own schedules, work on their own and other relevant claim to distance any relationship from the company.
The contractors are really trying hard to have themselves declared as employees. If the drivers are employees it would give them access to things like regular salaries, overtime pay, and benefits. Uber and their defenders argue that it would lead to fewer opportunities for drivers, less flexibility and a lot less innovative a service.
While litigation is pending in Florida, the Department of Economic Opportunity just declared that Uber drivers are employees, allowing them to sign up for unemployment benefits
A driver was fired and filed for unemployment benefits. the driver claimed that he could not afford the payments on the expensive SUV he had purchased for his job. I agree that the driver made a personal decision to buy a car he could not afford.
Some drivers seem to have unrealistic expectations and are sinking a ton of money into buying new vehicles. The drivers are purchasing equipment for a job that is not even guaranteed. But that doesn’t mean that the liability for that risk should automatically be shifted over to the companies. But, if this ruling stands, that’s how things are moving in Florida, putting a potential damper on important and useful service.
While these cases are in California and Florida, they are important and relevant because Uber is still driving towards Alabama. Uber has been trying to do business in both ends of the state in Huntsville and Mobile. Some news reporters believe that the problem for Uber in Alabama is that the name is not attractive enough.
Regardless of the name of the company, if Uber is able to do business in Alabama, there will surely be litigation to follow along these same issues. I look forward and hope to be among the first to challenge these issues in this state.
Also, these issues with Uber raise important issues with companies all in Alabama that offer contract services. At what point is the contractor an employee? At what point is someone entitles to unemployment compensation when they lose their job? There are many new start-up companies that operate under this same model all of the time. These are questions that will have to be decided by the court. If you are injured on the job, please seek counsel for your injury.