Workers comp lawyers for a San Francisco man who worked as a janitor and a Uber driver files for workers comp after a passenger he accepted slashed his face.
The workers comp lawsuit was filed by Uber driver Abdo Ghazi in San Francisco superior court on April 28th, and seeks class action status for other Uber drivers who have been injured by passengers or in other ways while on the clock for the ridesharing company as driver files for workers comp.
This is not the first “sharing economy” lawsuit that alleges such workers – who are normally hired by companies like Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Handy, and others – as independent contractors and are therefore not eligible, legally, for workers comp insurance. Uber has argued repeatedly that it should be exempt from many employee insurance laws across the US because it is technically just a mobile app, and although it pays drivers, the business exists to connect drivers to passengers, and should not be treated like a taxi service. However, many states have either refused to allow Uber to legally operate until they apply as a taxi service, or have required Uber to provide drivers with company insurance to cover car accidents while the personal vehicle acts like a taxi.
“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.
Ghazi’s workers comp lawsuit stems from an incident on November 23rd, when a male passenger attacked him without provocation. Ghazi, 56 years old, suffered a broken nose and four puncture wounds to his nose and mouth. The passenger, David Lin, fled the scene but was arrested after attempting to break into someone’s house, according to police. His criminal trial for assault is forthcoming.
In the lawsuit, Ghazi states that he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder from the incident, and will need further medical treatment for the injuries to his face. He was unable to work either of his jobs for two months, adding lost wages to his class action workers comp filing.
“Our legal theory is that not providing workers compensation and misclassifying workers is an unfair business practice,” Ghazi’s attorney 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.”
Last year, a similar workers comp lawsuit was filed against mobile app Handy, which connects people with various repair skills to people who need repairs. Because Handy is not regulated by construction laws or other worker safety regulations, these workers can be in particular danger of falls or accidents on the job, but because they are independent contractors with Handy, the company does not technically have to pay workers comp coverage for them. A number of professions have recently come under fire for treating and paying employees as independent contractors, stripping them of benefits they would otherwise be entitled to, including exotic dancers. A recent decision in South Carolina reported here, opined that although the club considered and paid the worker as if she was an independent contractor, she was actually an employee, and therefore entitled to workers compensation benefits.