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New York Said to Become Next Battleground for Gig Worker Law

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The debate over gig worker rights could soon move east, as lawmakers in New York consider following California in making it harder for companies like Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. to classify drivers as independent contractors.

Sen. Diane Savino (D) plans to introduce updated legislation that would extend protections such as unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation benefits, and minimum wage and overtime pay requirements to a new class of “dependent workers.” But a coalition of advocates already is pushing lawmakers to go further, adopting something similar to a new California law designed to force gig and a wide range of other businesses to reclassify independent contractors as employees.

“I think the core of our position has always been that the laws have to be universal, they have to protect and raise the standards for workers across the economy,” Bhairavi Desai, who runs the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, told Bloomberg Law. The alliance launched the coalition with Service Employees International Union 32BJ and the National Employment Law Project. “I think the role that people like us are going to play is to make sure that the gig companies don’t lobby to water down these laws or to win a carveout for themselves.”

The legislative push comes as Uber, Lyft, and other gig companies are under fire for their business model, treating workers connected to customers through online platforms as self-employed entrepreneurs. Those workers aren’t covered by a spectrum of employment laws and are on the hook for payroll taxes usually picked up by employers.

Discussions in New York signal that the closely watched California law to crack down on that practice could be spreading. That type of legislation is likely to bring court battles and a lobbying blitz.

“It’s not a question whether or not there will be worker classification legislation in New York,” says Bradley Tusk, a consultant who’s advised Uber and Handy, among other companies. “It’s a question of what will be in it.”

Tusk managed the last mayoral campaign of Michael Bloomberg, majority owner of Bloomberg Law’s parent company.

Cuomo Wants Bill

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) recently signed into law Assembly Bill 5, despite heavy opposition from gig economy companies like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart, and the larger business community. Critics of that law, which makes it much harder to classify workers as independent contractors, say it will gut a wide variety of businesses and bump up their tax bills.

“A.B. 5 is huge, both in terms of the change in the law but also the scope,” said Adam Abrahms, a California attorney for Epstein Becker who represents businesses in labor relations cases. “It will take years for us to really understand this. There will be lots of litigation, lots of consternation, and probably some industry leaving California.”

Uber and Lyft’s costs per driver could jump by more than 20% if they have to reclassify workers as employees, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence analysis.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), at an unrelated event on Sept. 9 said the state could follow California’s lead, stressing the need to extend various legal protections to workers by redefining independent contractors as employees.

“And I think in my opinion, forget the specifics, more people should be considered employees because what has been happening is companies have been going out of their way to hire independent contractors to get out of those obligations,” he said.

Cuomo’s office didn’t respond to a request for more details.

The state Senate’s internet and technology committee will host an Oct. 16 public hearing on the “gig economy” in New York City to hear from stakeholders.

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo (D) and Savino, the committee’s chairwoman, introduced a bill (S.6538/A.8343) in June that would have created a new “dependent worker” classification and required the state labor department to study potentially giving those workers certain rights. The tag would have covered workers who provide personal services to a consumer through a private third party, which establishes the amount the workers earn, or is charged or collected from the consumer.

The dependent worker category was floated in 2016 by former Obama Labor Department official Seth Harris and Princeton University economist Alan Krueger. Supporters tout it as a middle-ground approach that allows gig workers to get some benefits and protections, while giving them the flexibility to set their own hours and shielding gig companies from certain tax and other liabilities. Critics are concerned that it will let companies off the hook for important responsibilities to their workers.

The bill, which stalled before the legislative session ended in June, wouldn’t have automatically extended new protections to “dependent workers.” Instead, it would have directed the state Labor Department to study the possible impact of extending a variety of protections, such as the right to unionize, strike, and demand minimum wages and overtime pay.

Savino, the bill’s sponsor, said the initial bill will “probably not be the right one for New York either” this time around because the new legislation should go beyond simply studying the issue.

Hearing Renews Talks

The Oct. 16 committee hearing will allow lawmakers to take another look at the issue, Savino said, and gather more information as they craft new legislation for the upcoming 2020 session, which begins in January. There could be more hearings to come on the topic, she said.

The worker group coalition hasn’t yet met with Savino, but she said she hopes they’ll take part in the conversation. The goal is to “begin to gather information, hear from all sides, and to begin to put together a comprehensive piece of legislation,” Savino said. “I know what the problems are. What we don’t have yet is the solutions, and I think that’s part of what the hearing is about.”

Representatives for SEIU 32BJ and the National Employment Law Project declined to comment. Uber didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Shortly before Newsom signed A.B. 5 into law in California, gig employers offered a compromise deal. They said they would ensure certain minimum earnings for drivers, commit to sector-wide bargaining, and provide some benefits in exchange for continuing to treat drivers as contractors. Lyft spokesman CJ Macklin told Bloomberg Law the company is likely to take a similar approach in New York.

“I think in broad strokes we are supportive of some kind of solution that provides a certain level of protection for drivers while maintaining the flexibility that we know they are seeking,” Macklin said.

Savino said New York’s in a different position than California, where a state Supreme Court ruling spurred support for the law. The court last year adopted the “ABC” legal test for worker classification, which makes it significantly more difficult to classify workers as independent contractors. A.B. 5 codified the decision in state law. The worker advocate coalition wants New York to follow suit.

New York has a “fresh landscape,” Savino said. “I think we’re in a better position to come up with what I hope to be a clear definition of what employees are and what independent contractors are.”

Still, lobbyists on both sides of the aisle already are gearing up for a fight in Albany over legislation that could eventually be tucked into an end of the year omnibus bill commonly known as the “big ugly.” That includes wrangling over possible carve outs for certain industries, debates over which protections should be extended to gig workers, and whether some of those protections can be extended to contractors without making them traditional employees.

“When Uber and Lyft came into town with this business model, we were the first to recognize that this is actual employment,” said Desai from the Taxi Workers Alliance. “We knew that it was just a matter of time that the law was going to catch up with them.”

Source: https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/new-york-said-to-become-next-battleground-for-gig-worker-law

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Uber, lyft and other taxis

Lyft Is Another Step Closer to Driverless Ridesharing

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Ridesharing company Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT) inched a little bit closer toward self-driving ridesharing last week when it said in a blog post that it’s adding Chrysler Pacifica hybrids to its autonomous vehicle (AV) testing fleet and opening a new self-driving vehicle test facility.

The new facility, located in East Palo Alto, California, will allow the company to increase the number of AV tests it can run. It will also let the company test how the systems do with different road configurations, including intersections, merging lanes, traffic lights, and similar challenges. The company said in the post that the new facility will let Lyft “further accelerate the speed of innovation.”

Lyft says that it’s driving four times more autonomous miles per quarter than it was just six months ago and has about 400 employees worldwide working on self-driving tech. That figure is likely to expand, considering that Lyft has more than 40 autonomous vehicle job openings listed on its website.

In addition to the new facility, Lyft said that it’s adding Pacifica minivans to its AV fleet, which is the same vehicle that Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car company, uses for its public self-driving ridesharing project and AV tests. Lyft said that, “The minivan’s size and functionality provide our team with significant flexibility to experiment with the self-driving rideshare experience.”

Why does all this matter for Lyft’s autonomous-vehicle future? Because to have a successful, public self-driving ridesharing fleet in the coming years, Lyft needs to lay the groundwork right now.

Isn’t Lyft already doing AV testing?

Lyft is, of course, already working on AV testing. The company’s original self-driving test facility has been up and running since early 2018. The company also started a partnership with Waymo earlier this year to test autonomous ridesharing. Additionally, Lyft also works with Aptiv, an AV tech company, and together they’ve created “the largest publicly available commercial self-driving program in the country” and have completed more than 75,000 rides through the partnership.

But the recent announcements by Lyft show that the company is taking its AV focus a bit further. The Pacifica minivans have been used by Waymo’s AV ridesharing program in Phoenix for more than a year now, making them a proven choice for shuttling around ride-hailing passengers. Lyft may not be ready to launch a wide-scale autonomous ridesharing service just yet, but testing out these vehicles likely means that it’s moving past earlier stages of AV testing and is now looking at how its next-generation self-driving tech can handle new vehicles.

Why this matters for Lyft

Lyft and other ride-hailing companies, including Uber, are keeping a close eye on self-driving developments and testing out the technologies themselves because it could eventually become an integral part of their business model. Research from Intel predicts that the AV ridesharing market could be worth $3.7 trillion by 2050.

Additionally, as regulations surrounding ridesharing drivers continue to increase, Lyft is likely looking to AVs to eventually replace some human drivers. Just a few months ago, the state of California introduced a bill that could pave the way for independent contractors, including Lyft’s drivers, to be reclassified as employees. If a version of the bill becomes law and other states follow California’s lead, it could significantly increase operating costs for Lyft. That could be bad news for the company, which is unprofitable right now and hoping to be in the black just two years from now.

While Lyft’s announcements may not seem all that significant right now, investors should know that these baby steps moving the company closer to AV ridesharing could have huge results in the coming years. For now, investors should be pleased that Lyft is beefing up its own AV testing. Each move the company makes now means that it’ll be much more ready for a self-driving ridesharing future.

Source www.nasdaq.com

By Chris Neiger

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Uber, lyft and other taxis

Uber fined $650 million by New Jersey over driver classification

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New Jersey is the latest state to say Uber’s drivers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development said that because of this misclassification, the ride-hailing company owes it roughly $650 million in unemployment taxes and disability insurance, according to Bloomberg Law.

The Department of Labor reportedly has been trying to get unpaid employment taxes from Uber going back as far as 2015, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg Law. It said the company owed the state $523 million in overdue taxes along with another $119 million in interest and penalties for the last four years. Uber disputes these findings.

“We are challenging this preliminary but incorrect determination,” an Uber spokesman said in an email. “Because drivers are independent contractors in New Jersey and elsewhere.”

Driver classification is an issue that government regulators have been taking a closer look at over the past year. California passed a law in September that could require Uber and other on-demand companies to reclassify their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1. New York, Oregon and Washington state have considered similar legislation.

Uber, Lyft and several other tech companies have vowed to fight the California law, collectively putting more than $90 million behind a ballot initiative that’ll take the issue to voters next November. Many drivers have said this move is a slap in the face as they struggle to earn a living wage.

Uber’s and Lyft’s business models depend on bringing aboard hundreds of thousands of independent contractors, whose labor is typically cheaper than that of employees. That’s because Uber and Lyft drivers supply and maintain their own cars and also pay for their own health care and benefits, such as sick days or overtime pay.New Jersey is the latest state to say Uber’s drivers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development said that because of this misclassification, the ride-hailing company owes it roughly $650 million in unemployment taxes and disability insurance, according to Bloomberg Law.

The Department of Labor reportedly has been trying to get unpaid employment taxes from Uber going back as far as 2015, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg Law. It said the company owed the state $523 million in overdue taxes along with another $119 million in interest and penalties for the last four years. Uber disputes these findings.

“We are challenging this preliminary but incorrect determination,” an Uber spokesman said in an email. “Because drivers are independent contractors in New Jersey and elsewhere.”

Driver classification is an issue that government regulators have been taking a closer look at over the past year. California passed a law in September that could require Uber and other on-demand companies to reclassify their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. The law is set to go into effect Jan. 1. New York, Oregon and Washington state have considered similar legislation.

Uber, Lyft and several other tech companies have vowed to fight the California law, collectively putting more than $90 million behind a ballot initiative that’ll take the issue to voters next November. Many drivers have said this move is a slap in the face as they struggle to earn a living wage.

Uber’s and Lyft’s business models depend on bringing aboard hundreds of thousands of independent contractors, whose labor is typically cheaper than that of employees. That’s because Uber and Lyft drivers supply and maintain their own cars and also pay for their own health care and benefits, such as sick days or overtime pay.

 

“New Jersey is sending a message that the state’s labor laws aren’t dictated by corporations,” Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said in a statement. “It’s a stinging rebuke of the architects of the gig economy, and we hope it permeates across other sectors.”

Even if Uber’s drivers were determined to be employees rather than independent contractors, Uber said the $650 million New Jersey tax fine would be too high — particularly if it’s based on what the company has earned in the state. Uber didn’t disclose the revenue it generated in New Jersey over the past four years, but its combined revenue for all the markets where it operated in 2018 was $11.3 billion.

 

 

 

Source www.cnet.com

By Dara Kerr

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Adams Clinical removes hurdle to clinical trial participation

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How Adams Clinical increased retention and streamlined operations by switching to Uber.

One of the hardest parts of conducting a clinical trial is identifying willing participants. Once a participant is identified, strict qualifications and an often-lengthy time commitment limits who can participate, and a lack of access to transportation can make it difficult for participants to commit to and complete the study. To help improve recruitment and retention rates, Adams Clinical offered taxi rides to their participants. However, this solution became a burden on operational efficiency since taxis were only accessible to participants who lived close by and required the staff to pay at the end of each ride.

Finding the perfect transportation solution with Uber Health

To expand their transportation offering, Adams Clinical became an early beta partner with Uber in 2016. The team started using Uber’s web dashboard to arrange and pay for rides for participants with just a few clicks. Over the three years of this partnership, the switch to Uber Health simplified operational management, while reducing time spent on recruitment with increased retention rates. The easy-to-use Uber Health dashboard tracked all the rides and processed payments from one centralized interface, allowing the staff to arrange rides without the hassle of paying at the end of each trip. This flexibility, plus the extensive reach of Uber driver-partners in the Boston area, provided Adams Clinical with the transportation solution needed to successfully manage their participants in need of rides—which removed the headache from recruiting and retaining their study participants.

The result: Improved retention rates, simplified financial records, and an overall lift in team morale

By teaming with Uber Health, Adams Clinical enjoys a number of key benefits including:

• Expanded Recruitment—Using Uber Health cut down the length of enrollment by providing a larger pool to recruit from, resulting in a 5 to 10 percent reduction in recruitment time over the last two years. 

• Centralized Billing—All rides are charged to one company credit card, which is then processed at the end of each month to streamline the amount of administrative effort required.

• Reliable Service—Each ride is tracked in the dashboard so the team knows when the participant will be arriving to help keep the rest of the study on schedule.

• Improved Retention—In the first two years of the partnership with Uber, Adams Clinical estimated up to 20 percent fewer people dropped out of a trial when transportation was arranged to and from the clinic.

• Financial Accountability—Details for each ride are available in the dashboard, and can be downloaded to a spreadsheet, offering convenient management with trial-specific reporting per participant.

• Easy to Use—Using Uber Health has been easy for both staff and participants, even among populations without smartphones or passengers new to Uber.

 

by Kendall Brown

Source uber.com

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