Today’s News & Commentary — March 24, 2020
Uber is using the COVID-19 pandemic to try to persuade the federal government to adopt its position that its drivers are not employees under labor and employment law. In a letter sent to President Trump and other political leaders, Uber CEO Dana Khosrowshahi requested federal assistance for drivers who have lost work due to the pandemic but spent half of the letter explaining why Uber believes the dichotomy between independent contractors and employees is problematic. Khosrowshahi urged the government to create a new worker classification: a “‘third way’ that would update our labor laws to remove the forced choice between flexibility and protection for millions of American workers.” Of course, his letter never suggests that Uber drivers already are employees and are simply misclassified by Uber as independent contractors. Avoiding having its drivers classified as employees is a top priority for Uber, especially after the passage of AB5 in California last year.
HuffPost published a comprehensive and detailed FAQ for applying for unemployment insurance, a system that will be increasingly relied on as one estimate projects 3 million workers will lose their jobs by summer. The guide details the nuts and bolts on the program like when to apply, how to do so, and what to do if the website crashes from overuse – as has happened in multiple states including New Jersey. It also answers whether undocumented workers are eligible for unemployment insurance (if the worker is a recipient of DACA, maybe, but otherwise no), and whether workers classified as independent contractors by their employers should apply (yes, the state administering the program determines the classification, not the employer).
Courtney wrote a couple weeks ago that Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign had fired former employees despite explicit promises that it would employ them through the November general election, regardless of whether or not Bloomberg was the nominee. Now, the former employees have sued the campaign on two related counts in a class action representing up to 2,000 former employees. The former employees allege the Bloomberg campaign induced them to work for the campaign by lying to them about the stability of their employment, and that they should be compensated for lost wages from other potential jobs that they missed out on when they relied on the promise. They also seek punitive damages.
In the midst of widespread closures of bars and restaurants for on-site service due to the pandemic, customers are turning to take-out and delivery to support their favorite establishments in difficult circumstances. Carbone, a Michelin-starred, red gravy Italian restaurant in Manhattan which recently added a delivery option, has been immensely popular, as quarantine New Yorkers crave $69 veal parmesan. So many orders were placed that delivery workers crowded the sidewalk outside the restaurant, creating such an unsafe situation that the police broke up the crowd. One officer was quoted screaming to the workers as he forced them to disperse, “I know you guys are just out here trying to make money…I personally don’t give a sh**!”