Uber Sued by Injured Driver for Comp Benefits


Sacramento, CA - A San Francisco janitor who had his face slashed by a passenger while working a nightshift as an UberX driver has filed a lawsuit seeking workers compensation insurance coverage from Uber Technologies, the ride hailing platform that classifies its drivers as independent contractors. The lawsuit, which was filed by Abdo Ghazi in San Francisco Superior Court on April 28, is seeking class action status as well as an injunction, damages and penalties against Uber.

According to the report in Biz Journals, it is the latest in a line of similar lawsuits with potentially far reaching implications for the on-demand economy that have been filed against Uber and other new tech platforms insisting that the workers providing the actual services they advertise be treated as employees. "Uber's misclassification of drivers as independent contractors gave it an unfair advantage over competing transportation companies, harmed Uber drivers, and violated state law," the suit claims. Even short of getting employment status, Ghazi's suit demands that he be given workers compensation benefits, something that is allowed for and in some cases mandated even when workers are not considered employees, as is the case for taxi drivers in California.

San Francisco taxi officials say workers' compensation coverage costs nearly $5,000 per cab a year, and they have long complained that it is unfair that taxi companies must provide drivers with workers compensation coverage while there is no similar requirement for drivers for Uber and similar on-demand platforms like Lyft and Sidecar, all of which are regulated by the state Public Utilities Commission.

Ghazi, 56, suffered a broken nose and four puncture wounds to his nose and mouth when he was attacked without provocation in the Richmond District by a male passenger shortly after midnight on Nov. 23, according to his complaint. David Lin, 26, fled after attacking Ghazi and was later taken into custody after attempting to break into someone's house, a police spokesman said. He has been charged with one count of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, one count of battery with serious bodily injury, and one count of false imprisonment and has entered a plea of not guilty. Ghazi's attacker was allegedly one of three people, including two men and woman, who originally got into Ghazi's car at about midnight, said Conor Granahan, one of Ghazi's attorneys. Ghazi was driving his Toyota Sienna and getting ride referrals through Uber's UberX service, which enables people using a smartphone application to drive for hire using their own vehicles.

After dropping off one man and the woman, Ghazi was taking his remaining passenger toward Clement Street and 18th Avenue when the man suddenly leaped into the front seat and started punching Ghazi without warning, repeatedly striking Ghazi's face while pulling on his seatbelt so he could not escape, Granahan said. Ghazi's lip and chin were punctured by something sharp during the attack and he was taken to a local hospital where he was stitched up, and he still has "swelling and other issues with his mouth" as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Granahan. He will need subsequent medical care, his suit states.

The result was that Ghazi, a resident of the Tenderloin, was off work for nearly two months from both Uber and also from his day job as a custodian at a downtown building, though he has since returned to both positions, Granahan said. Ghazi previously worked as a taxi driver at night, but when his earnings plummeted as a result of Uber's impact on the market, he switched in June 2014 to the Uber platform, his complaint states.

Alec Segarich, another of Ghazi's lawyers, who specializes in employment law, said he was aware of other lawsuits like Ghazi's that are seeking employee status and have been filed against other tech-enabled companies which claim they are simply a communication platform to connect customers with independent contractors providing services ranging from house cleaning to grocery delivery. Other San Francisco firms named as defendants in such cases include Caviar (owned by payments provider Square), Homejoy, Instacart, Lyft and Postmates."Our legal theory is that not providing workers compensation and misclassifying workers is an unfair business practice," Segarich said.

"A lot of companies are trying to get out of pretty basic employment rights that have been around for a century. We think that just because you have an app it doesn't change the employer-employee relationship, and that's a lot of what this lawsuit is about." Read More...

Source: EmploymentLawAcademy.com

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