New York taxi driver group says Uber violating labor laws

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The logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone over a reserved lane for taxis in a street is seen in this photo illustration taken in Madrid on December 10, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/Illustration/File Photo
The logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone over a reserved lane for taxis in a street is seen in this photo illustration taken in Madrid on December 10, 2014.

Reuters/Sergio Perez/Illustration/File Photo

A group representing 5,000 Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] drivers in New York City filed a lawsuit on Thursday accusing the ride-share company of depriving drivers of various employment protections by misclassifying them as independent contractors.

The proposed class action lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance is the latest to claim Uber drivers should be considered employees entitled to minimum wage, overtime pay and reimbursements for expenses.

The group, which represents a total of 19,000 New York taxi, black car and Uber drivers, said it filed a separate complaint on Thursday with the National Labor Relations Board claiming arbitration agreements Uber drivers signed illegally prohibit them from bringing class action claims.

The Taxi Workers Alliance has criticized a recent deal between Uber and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union to create an “independent drivers guild” for the company’s New York drivers that falls short of union representation, highlighting a sharp divide among labor groups grappling with the rise of the “gig economy.”

The group’s lawsuit says Uber expanded aggressively in New York beginning in 2011 by promising drivers decent wages. Instead, the group said, most of the drivers’ pay went toward car payments, maintenance and surcharges from the company.

“Uber, through its practices and broken promises, severely harmed the thousands of drivers they recruited and have contributed greatly to a ‘race to the bottom,'” says the lawsuit, which alleges violations of state and federal employment laws.

A spokesman for San Francisco-based Uber did not immediately have comment on the lawsuit. The company has said most of its drivers say they enjoy the flexibility that comes with being an independent contractor.

Taxi trade groups have vocally opposed Uber’s rapid expansion, saying the company should be required to fingerprint drivers and make cars accessible to people with disabilities, as taxi companies are.

Uber in April agreed to settle a major class action lawsuit brought on behalf of 385,000 drivers in California and Massachusetts for up to $100 million that also claimed drivers were actually employees.

A federal judge in San Francisco is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday on whether to approve the settlement, which has drawn about three dozen objections.

At least eight similar cases are pending in seven states, including New York and Texas, and four others have been sent to arbitration, where drivers can bring only individual claims.

The case is New York Taxi Workers Alliance v. Uber Technologies Inc, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, number 1:16-cv-04098.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Chris Reese)