A group of Lyft drivers in California lost their latest bid to convince a state court judge to immediately reclassify them as employees with paid sick leave to help fight the spread of Covid-19.
The pandemic has caused dire financial consequences for many Lyft drivers, who are classified as independent contractors, Judge Ethan P. Schulman of the California Superior Court acknowledged Thursday. Despite that, and even though some drivers have contracted the virus, they must keep working if they want to get paid, he said.
“The court’s powers only extend so far,” and neither the record nor California law justifies granting the requested injunction, Schulman said.
The drivers will also have to individually arbitrate their proposed class action claims alleging Lyft’s classification regime violates California unfair competition laws. There’s a valid arbitration agreement in the relevant contracts, and the claim is arbitrable because it seeks relief for the drivers, not the general public, Schulman said.
The state court relied heavily on a decision issued April 7 by Judge Vince Chhabria of the U.S. District Court for Northern California. Chhabria also denied the drivers’ injunction request and compelled them to arbitrate some claims, then remanded an unfair competition claim to state court.
The state court also agreed with Chhabria that forced reclassification wouldn’t necessarily prevent the drivers’ alleged injury, and might actually do more harm than good.
If the drivers were reclassified as employees, they’d likely only get a few days’ worth of paid sick leave and they’d completely lose access to the benefits provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
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