On Uber’s Responsibility to Make Unemployment Insurance Contributions for NY Drivers

Following today’s news that Uber withdrew its appeal of an employee status determination by the NYS Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board for three former NYC drivers and all other similarly situated drivers, NELP Senior Staff Attorney Laura Padin issued the following statement: 

“NELP applauds the ruling by the NYS Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board from July 2018 that found Uber drivers in New York State to be employees for the purposes of unemployment benefits. Uber initially appealed that ruling to the NYS Supreme Court Appellate Division, but at the last minute withdrew its appeal, as first reported today. There is no further possibility of appeal, and Uber must begin to make unemployment insurance contributions for the three claimants in the case and all ‘similarly situated’ drivers. In its ruling, the Board determined that Uber had sufficient control over workers to be their employer, despite the unique circumstances of each claimant, and despite Uber’s longstanding insistence that its workers are independent contractors with no employee protections. Uber’s withdrawal of its appeal, coming after it realized it could not win in court, is a just end to this fight for unemployment benefits for New York drivers, which began in 2016. It’s also an important first step toward ending Uber’s misclassification of workers.

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“We also commend the Board’s decision to apply its ruling to all ‘similarly situated’ Uber drivers—so that each Uber driver does not have to relitigate this eligibility question when he or she applies for UI benefits—and we urge the NYS Department of Labor to conduct an audit on Uber to determine how much the company owes the state on behalf of its drivers, so that Uber is held responsible for paying its fair share of UI contributions.

“America’s workforce, including ‘gig’ workers, need equal access to a strong social safety net, of which unemployment insurance is a necessary component. This ruling is an important first step to ensuring the economic security and dignity of workers classified (often wrongly) as independent contractors and to requiring the companies that employ these workers to contribute their fair share to the system. We will continue to advocate for policies that entitle workers labelled as independent contractors by their employers to the same benefits, including Social Security, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation, on the same terms as their fellow workers classified as employees.”

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The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit www.nelp.org. Follow NELP on Twitter at @NelpNews.

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