Employment lawsuit against Uber, Lyft will proceed

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS/WWLP) – Attorney General Maura Healey’s lawsuit against Uber and Lyft will continue after a judge on Thursday denied the ride-hailing companies’ request to toss the case, keeping in play the chances of an industry-shifting ruling about driver classification.

Suffolk Superior Court Justice Kenneth Salinger allowed Healey’s lawsuit to proceed, ruling Thursday that she has standing to ask a court to declare drivers for Uber and Lyft to be employees who have wage and benefit protections under state law.

Healey called the decision “a major victory in our ongoing fight to support and protect Uber and Lyft drivers from unfair and exploitative practices.” Neither company could be reached for immediate comment Thursday evening. The ultimate outcome of the case remains undecided, and the court will next hold a scheduling conference on April 14. Full statement:

“Today’s court decision is a major victory in our ongoing fight to support and protect Uber and Lyft drivers from unfair and exploitative practices,” said AG Healey. “The court plainly rejected Uber and Lyft’s latest attempt to deprive their drivers of basic protections that help them earn a living wage, including minimum wage, overtime, and earned sick time. Under our laws, drivers in Massachusetts can have both flexibility and the rights and benefits of employment status. Our case continues as we seek a court order to force Uber and Lyft to comply with laws that are already on the books.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey

Healey sued Uber and Lyft in July, alleging that the companies have boosted their profits and violated state labor laws by deeming drivers contractors instead of employees who could access key employment benefits. Both Uber and Lyft argue that their workforce prefers the flexibility of being contractors, pointing to industry surveys finding most drivers would prefer to stay independent.

The case could have massive implications for ride-hailing services, hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts drivers, and the so-called “gig economy” more broadly. As Salinger noted in his Thursday ruling, both Uber and Lyft have indicated that being ordered to classify drivers as employees could dramatically alter their business models.

“Lyft has confirmed that this controversy is not merely hypothetical, stating in its memorandum of law that a finding that its Massachusetts drivers are employees ‘would require a root-and-branch reinvention of Lyft’s business,'” Salinger wrote. “Uber similarly states that such a declaration would “fundamentally reshape” the relationship between Uber and its drivers.”

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