New York’s Highest Court Rules Postmates Couriers ‘And Others Similarly Situated’ Are Employees Eligible for Unemployment Insurance

Following is a statement from Najah Farley, senior staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project:

“Yesterday, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and found that Postmates couriers are employees for purposes of unemployment insurance. This landmark decision means that hundreds of Postmates workers in New York State are eligible to receive unemployment benefits—an especially timely and important ruling in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

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“The decision clarifies that Postmates is required to make contributions to the unemployment insurance fund on behalf of its couriers in order to ensure that they have access to these crucial benefits. And it clarifies the principles that should be applied in determining employee status for all app-based workers.

“The Court of Appeals states directly that there was substantial evidence that Postmates ‘exercised control over its couriers sufficient to render them employees’ rather than independent contractors, noting that Postmates mediated the relationship between couriers and customers, controlled the assignment of deliveries, tracked the couriers’ location, unilaterally determined the couriers’ compensation, and bore the loss of compensation if customers refused to pay. The decision also stated that technological changes, such as using a cell-phone-based application, were not enough to distinguish Postmates from past cases finding delivery workers were eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

“We believe this decision may be applicable to app-based workers where the app controls when, where, how, and for how much money the workers do the work. NELP calls on the New York State Department of Labor to apply this decision to similarly situated app-based workers and to collect unemployment contributions from similarly situated app-based companies. We also urge the Department to streamline the application process for app-based workers and release these benefits to app-based workers who qualify under this analysis.

“NELP is proud to have provided amicus support to Postmates couriers in their fight to be recognized as employees and receive unemployment insurance benefits, together with our allies, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, Legal Services NYC, and The Legal Aid Society of New York.”

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