A class-action lawsuit filed this summer in Massachusetts and California courts is challenging that. The suit asserts that Uber improperly classifies its drivers, who own their cars and use Uber’s smartphone app to get work, as independent contractors. No sick time, no health insurance, no 401k contributions.
And the case is creating anxiety for other startups providing on-demand services, typically using websites or mobile apps.
Rightfully so, says Russell Beck, an attorney with Beck Reed Riden LLP in Boston. Massachusetts puts the burden on employers to rebut “a strong presumption that the individual is an employee,” Beck explains. The central legal question: whether the individual is performing a task “outside of the usual course of the employer’s business.”