California judge: Uber and Lyft must treat their drivers like regular employees and pay benefits

Many gig workers have struggled to get unemployment benefits because their employers were not required to pay into the system. That may change soon. A California judge ruled on Monday that Uber and Lyft must classify their drivers as employees. The judge gave the ruling a 10-day delay, enough time for Uber and Lyft to appeal, which they’ve promised to do.

The two ride sharing companies say the drivers don’t qualify as employees under the AB5 legislation, which went into effect on January 1. “They don’t think it applies to them and to their business model” says Kate Conger, tech reporter for New York Times. “They have advocated that the law not be enforced against them. They also have a measure on the ballot that would exempt them explicitly from the law.”

Conger notes that Uber and Lyft have included some concessions in the ballot measure, such as a wage floor for drivers and some form of health benefits.

“The argument that the state is making is that they’ve sort of created these business advantages because they’ve relied on unfair labor practices, and that taxi companies haven’t been able to charge the same rates as Uber has because they’re subject to employment law. And so this enforcement would level the playing field for businesses in the state,” she says.