Take The Wheel: Judge Says California's Uber, Lyft Drivers Are Employees

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By KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

Saying Uber and Lyft have maintained a "prolonged and brazen refusal to comply with California law," a San Francisco judge Monday issued a preliminary injunction to make the company’s drivers employees.

The ruling comes after state Attorney General Xavier Becerra and city attorneys from L.A., San Diego and San Francisco sued to enforce Assembly Bill 5, alleging the companies were depriving drivers of typical employee protections and benefits. Judge Ethan Schulman stayed his injunction for 10 days, giving Uber and Lyft time to appeal the ruling as they continue to prefer to classify drivers as independent contractors.

"In some ways, I’m not surprised," said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who represents San Diego. "I mean, the law is the law. But it has been for quite a while now and it’s amazing these companies just refuse to abide by it."

Gonzalez, who is one of the sponsors of AB 5, which was passed in 2019.

She pointed out the judge’s distinction that it would be less destructive to ask the companies to reclassify the drivers, versus having them continue working for Uber and Lyft without protections.

"Right now, we’re not really sure how sustainable (the platform) is," Gonzalez added. "We need to pay for services. It’s amazing because Uber and Lyft are full, publicly traded companies that say they have a lot of cash reserved. It seems like, perhaps, maybe not having the highest CEO pay and high management pay, that some of that pay could go down to the drivers."

In a statement to KCBS Radio late Monday, Uber said: "The vast majority of drivers want to work independently, and we’ve already made significant changes to our app to ensure that remains the case under California law. When over three million Californians are without a job, our elected leaders should be focused on creating work, not trying to shut down an entire industry during an economic depression."

Lyft has not responded to a request for comment.

Both companies are expected to appeal Monday’s ruling and ask for a longer stay.

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