The Massachusetts Attorney General told a federal judge Friday that she supports a recent emergency request to reclassify Uber and Lyft drivers as employees so they may access paid sick leave during the new coronavirus outbreak.
“Ride-sharing drivers are providing essential transportation services in the midst of a public health crisis, but they do so without necessary sick leave protections—leaving them in an untenable economic position that puts them at risk of endangering not only themselves and their families, but the entire public,” Maura Healey told the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in a friend of the court brief.
Massachusetts has more than 2,400 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 25 deaths from the disease, according to Bloomberg News data.
Healey’s office filed identical briefs in support of the drivers’ cases that, until this week, had been relatively straightforward Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuits alleging they had been misclassified as independent contractors rather than employees of the ride-sharing app giants and entitled to minimum and overtime wages.
The plaintiffs in the two cases filed emergency motions in federal court March 23, asking Judge Indira Talwani to immediately reclassify them as employees so they may start drawing down paid sick leave under Massachusetts’ paid sick leave law. The state law covers employers with at least 11 employees.
Paid sick leave serves a fundamental public purpose by enabling sick and low-wage workers to stay home and avoid spreading any illnesses they’re battling to others, Healey said.
Given the highly contagious nature of the new coronavirus, “drivers must be afforded immediate sick leave protections so they are not confronted with the economic dilemma of having to work while they are sick, and so that members of the public are protected from the risks posed by sick drivers,” Healey said.
The present circumstances should be sufficient evidence of an immediate threat of irreparable harm not only to the drivers, but also their families and the general public, she said.
For additional legal resources, visit Bloomberg Law In Focus: Coronavirus (Bloomberg Law Subscription).