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Uber says drivers are independent contractors, drivers say they are employees

More and more employees in California are taking a hard look at the nature of their employment contracts.

Are they being denied benefits? Is their employer flaunting the law and not paying them formeal breaks or allowing rest time? Are they wrongly classified as independent contractors when in reality they are employees?

An Uber company driver is suing the company in federal court by invoking the Fair Labor Standards Act and alleging he is owed unpaid wages. Legal counsel is requesting that the court grant class action status to permit other drivers to join the suit.

This is not the first lawsuit of a similar nature that Uber is dealing with either. Three other drivers are making claims they are not independent contractors but rather employees and thus entitled to various benefits such as claiming expenses. In his statement of claim, Greg Fisher says he should be paid minimum wage, overtime wages (overtime must be paid after 40 hours of work per week) and other damages under the law that were not paid due to Uber classifying him as an independent contractor.

Fisher alleges he has driven for the company forstints of longer than eight hours. Of interest is that the California Labor Commission (CLC) has a decision on record that may impact Uber and other companies that utilize on-demand workers. The Commission ruled a specific Uber driver, Barbara Berwick, was indeed entitled to be paid for driving expenses, an amount of $4,152 which included toll fees she paid out while driving and a per mileage expense rate of 55 cents per mile.

The main question in these cases revolves around just how involved Uber is with its on-demand workers.According to the CLC, Uber not only approves drivers, but vets them first, dictates what cars they drive, tracks their ratings, controls the amount of money they earn by setting rates and manages driver access to the Uber application. Therefore, a driver is an Uber employee.

If you are in a questionable job situation and do not know if you are an independent contractor or not, talk to an experienced employment attorney who understands the labor laws in your jurisdiction. You may find out you are actually an employee and may be able to sue for unpaid and overtime wages that you are entitled to under the law.

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Guess Retail Inc. former worker alleges unpaid meal breaks, improper payment of wages

This lawsuit is the third launched against Guess Retail Inc. this year and has the potential to become a class action lawsuit. Burgos v. Guess Retail Inc., Case No. BC592087, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.

Former employee Kriss Burgos alleges that she was not paid for missed meal breaks, was improperly paidlater than mandated by law on termination and that there were other irregularities relating to wage payment and her employment records. Court documents indicate that Burgos was a non-exempt hourly worker and required to work without rest or meal breaks and was never compensated for them.

According to California labor law, employers must provide for regular rest breaks and an uninterrupted 30-minute meal break after the fifth hour of working.

There are five claims of violations, and the lawsuit is seeking straight time, overtime and double compensation due to Guess’s alleged failure to pay, as well as other compensatory damages and penalties.

Any worker who believes they have been unfairly denied meal or rest breaks or who were not paid according to the existing labor laws of their state should seek experienced legal counsel to determine their rights and how to proceed with a lawsuit, if that is the appropriate course of action.

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Misclassification of independent contractors an issue nationwide

Misclassification of workers as independent contractors is a problem nationwide. A misclassification of employee status prevents workers from attaining workplace benefits to which they may be entitled.

Recently, Idaho signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Labor to collaborate to identify businesses that engage in this illegal activity and to stop the misclassification of independent contractors. This latest move to protect workers brings Idaho in line with 23 other states that have similar agreements in place.

Those states are: Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The issue that prompted revamped legislation is that state and federal agencies need to know with certainty what actual benefits and protections are accorded to an employee, such as family medical leave, employment taxes, meal and break periods, overtime pay and minimum wage.

If a worker is misclassified,the business cheats the government out of legally mandated taxes and cheats workers out of legally mandated protections. Misclassification of a worker is a benefit for a company until it gets sued or reported and investigated. It is actually less expensive for the company to strictly comply with the labor laws of each state, or make it their priority to find out what those laws say, rather than be sued and have the court award a higher amount than may actually be owed.

If companies are allowed to get away with misclassifying workers, they also unfairly affect the tenor of the industry in which they compete. It is an unfair and illegal advantage to misclassify workers to get a competitive pricing edge to obtain more clients. Enforcement of stated labor laws protecting workers is the priority of states seeking to level the playing field and protect workers.

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