Boston-area Uber drivers sue for higher pay, sick leave

Uber calls them independent contractors, but a group of its drivers in the Boston-area say they are really employees who deserve to make, at the very least, the Massachusetts minimum wage, along with getting overtime and sick leave.

In a lawsuit filed in US District Court on Monday, 80 local Uber drivers say they fit the legal definition of "employees" set by Massachusetts law: They are at Uber's beck and call, they have to do everything exactly as the company wants to keep getting rides, they are not performing work outside "the usual course of the hiring entity’s business" and they are not promoting "their independent business separate from working for an employer." The complaint adds:

The difference between what Uber should pay Plaintiffs and what it does pay Plaintiffs is significant. The minimum wage in Massachusetts in 2017 and 2018 was $11 per hour. The minimum wage for 2019 is $12 per hour. But Uber frequently pays many Plaintiffs less than $8 per hour.

Uber does not pay Plaintiffs any overtime for the considerable time they drive more than 40 hours in a week.

Although Massachusetts law requires employers to provide employees with earnings statements that allow them to assess their hourly wage, Uber provides earning statements that omit this information.

The drivers are represented by local lawyer Josh Gardner and by Ashley Keller of Chicago and Warren Postman of Washington, DC., who have filed a similar lawsuit against Uber in California.



Free tagging: 

PDF icon Complete complaint170.66 KB


This sounds like something

By on

This sounds like something the legislature really ought to decide. Existing labor law hasn't kept up with gig economy reality.


True but

I will be surprised if Uber doesn’t find a way to weasel out of it.

For example, asking for overtime pay... that problem could be elided by Uber cutting drivers off after 40 hours a week.

As long as there are enough suckers it’s always possible to make the gig economy suck more.

Many companies cut people off at 40 hours though.....

But yea, Uber will do anything in it's power to make as much money as it can without spreading the wealth....

But it is a strange business. You can't really set a minimum wage, because what if there are too many drivers and not enough fares? Do you pay people who can't find work (or who might not want to work)?

I don't think getting people heath insurance if they work 40 hours a week though is unreasonable. In that case both Uber and the driver makes out.

How is the minimum counted?

The complaint says that Uber doesn't pay drivers for time spent waiting for rides, or time spent driving to rides. I don't know whether the complainants are counting that time in their estimate that they are making less than minimum wage.

It would be trivial for the company to demonstrate how much time the complainants actually spend driving, as well as waiting for rides, etc. The app tracks all of that.

One need not be a sucker

When I jumped in back in 2014, I asked several questions. I posted the full list here once.

-How many drivers do you have?

-How many do you plan to staff?

-Will my vehicle age off the platform at any point, thus sinking my investment?

True, but without profit, what will they win?

Uber is currently operating at a loss so as to create a superficial large market share ahead of its IPO. They are paying bonus money to compete for drivers.

This a pump and dump scheme. The interesting thing is that driver's are actually earning less then they are being paid. And this artificial pumping has gone on for 9 years.

If driver's were cut off at 40 hours per week, they would earn more (whether they would get paid more IDK...) per mile. People forget that the point of medallions was to limit the amount of taxi's. At this point there are so many ride share cars on the road, it is cheaper than taking the MBTA.

Anecdotally, successful drivers plan their hours to avoid much down time. Interestingly, I heard that 4am was one the best times to drive. Lots of surge pricing.

The medallion system failed to reward the drivers adequately for their work, but the system was created for a reason. I think eventually it will be recreated.

read the complaint

uber refuses to tell them their mileage or hours. They can independently keep track but it is clear that uber doesn't want them to know. you cannot maintain a late model car on minimum wage. they don't want minimum wage, they want full disclosure. Uber wants tons of drivers ready and less than 5 minutes away. but if drivers could see how much they were earning they would turn off the app.

the problem is sick time as well.

not so fast!

By on

so many cars that's its cheaper than the MBTA. what are you smoking? you completely made that up and i'm sure you can find an instance of that but for normal users of both the mbta and uber, this is incorrect by a large margin.

I didn't make it up. It

I didn't make it up. It depends on whether you are paying the optimal fare with a Charlie Card. Remember even if you have a Charlie Card, you only get 1 transfer per 2 hours. So to go door to door from my office I would take bus to Red Line and a bus to my house. That would allow me a comparable amount of walking to getting an Uber door to door.

Local Bus One Way
CharlieCard: $1.70
CharlieTicket or Cash: $2.00

Subway One Way
CharlieCard: $2.25
CharlieTicket or Cash: $2.75

And I can uber home from my office for $3.85 (pool) to $6.13(x) To take the mbta, I would spend between $6.75 - $2.25 depending on how far I walk and whether I have a Charlie card or ticket.

Uber + Tax

By on

Slightly off-topic, but:

say the driver lives in R.I. and fills up the tank in R.I. but drives/works in Boston. So MA or Boston gets no taxes for using their roads?

Probably depends if the driver does their taxes properly...

I believe that most income that is taxed at the state level is supposed to be taxed where it is earned, rather than where the taxpayer resides. In your example, if 100% of the driver's income is earned in Massachusetts, I believe they are supposed to pay Massachusetts income tax.

I'm not a tax expert though, so I could be wrong.

Don't know but I'm guessing MA gets some of your income tax....

If you are picking up fares in MA and dropping them off in MA, you should pay income tax in MA.

I do know that pro athletes in some states that have no state income tax (Texas, Florida) pay MA income tax when they play their sport here. Not 100% sure how they still do this but I heard it was some sort of flat rate per athlete.

lol on no boston's missing

By on

lol on no boston's missing out on that .002% of road costs that's covered by gas tax

there's a lot of issues with uber's model and effects but that's just concern trolling. would be better to institute some kind of tolling model through the app (since they know where the car's registered, etc)


By on

only responds to pain, they are impervious to all else.

Well since they are tipped

By on

Since they have a tip option in the app now, I would say their minimum wage should be the tipped rate of $4.35 not the standard minimum wage of $12!


Here's a tip

By on

Lets have your boss cut your wages and see how that feels?

Tipped wages are legalized theft. Period.

Not everyone tips and most

By on

Not everyone tips and most tips are 1-3 bucks per ride. That would make their base wage even less.

Not independent?

By on

The way I see it, if a driver has total free reign ("Independence") to choose their own hours, both quantity of hours and actual schedule, why would we consider them employees and not independent contractors?

Other tests for independent contractors

By on

Setting your own hours is only one test. Others are whether you are free to subcontract your work to others (no), whether you have substantial say in terms of how you do your work (no). There's no hard and fast rule as to whether someone is a contractor or employee, but these tests are applied and weighed on a case-by-case basis. I would guess that Uber drivers might have a decent argument in both directions.


interesting, thank you

By on

Interesting, thanks. I know at one prior job, contractors (computer programmers, etc) were specifically excluded from company meetings and company parties. Even though they --for all practical purposes-- did work just like regular employees, I believe the company was trying to draw some lines as to where they were different in case of legal challenges.

Setting your own hours is only one test. Others are whether you are free to subcontract your work to others (no), whether you have substantial say in terms of how you do your work (no). There's no hard and fast rule as to whether someone is a contractor or employee, but these tests are applied and weighed on a case-by-case basis. I would guess that Uber drivers might have a decent argument in both directions.

Been there, done that

Got a nice $78 check in the mail a couple of weeks ago from an Uber suit. That'll teach 'em to cut the fare by a third after I acquire a vehicle. (Expletive) them. I take Lyft from the airport now.

Beck and call?

They are at Uber's beck and call,

Is that true?
Doesn't a driver turn their app on and off as they please?
Don't drivers accept/deny rides?

Not really an Uber user so I may be way off base here.

Yes and no

By on

I drove for Lyft and Safr, not Uber, but I know that Lyft factors in your acceptance rate and it affects the driver. I assume Uber does similar (someone here can surely correct me). Also, at least with Lyft, you can't see where they're headed until you pick them up. So you accept someone who is a block away, they get in, and it shows you you're headed to Northampton. Your only option if you have a kid to pick up in two hours is to cancel the ride and be an asshole to the person. I get that they do it so drivers aren't declining airport runs or rides to Black neighborhoods, but just giving an example of how you kind of are at their beck and call.

This is very complicated.

This is very complicated. There are many jobs that don't allow you to leave at end of shift if tasks are not finished. That's what overtime is for. Many people have to have child care back up if they work at a hospital, etc.

That one is fixable. I mean if you put in a destination that is x miles away, the company should be able to divert the ride for an available driver. I met an insurance adjuster that did uber in between tasks. He drove all over the state and hoped to get rides that were roughly parallel.

I remember getting a ride that was remarkably fast because the uber was already on my street. then he was thrilled because I was going to the airport and he lived in Eastie.


By on

And if you're an independent contractor, the hospital can't make you stay, because they don't employ you. If you own a catering business or landscaping business and are hired by a hospital to do a job, someone who works at the hospital doesn't get to tell you you're staying an hour later today because there's more work than they thought.

Hah. ride-sharing at it's best

By on

Examples of ride-sharing at it's best. Colleague in the burbs lives in Revere and is an uber driver. Drives into city and looks for rides heading to our office burb. On his way home from work, looks to pick up rides heading from our burb into the city. (I only heard this briefly over lunch chit chat. It's possible I'm slightly mis-stating how he operates)

It doesn't work that way

By on

It doesn't work that way already? I thought the whole idea behind rideshare was that drivers already going from A to B should be able to find passengers who also need to go from ~A to ~B.