News & Commentary

May 11, 2018

Martin Drake

Martin Drake is a student at Harvard Law School.

Workers have sued both Lyft and Postmates for employee misclassification in California, making the companies among the first in the gig economy to face a legal test of California’s new independent contractor standard, Reuters reports.  The two companies have each settled previous misclassification lawsuits, with Postmates paying $8.75 million and Lyft paying $27 million in their respective earlier cases.  As OnLabor previously reported, last week the California courts adopted a more worker-friendly standard for companies that wish to claim their workers are independent contractors.

Inflation-adjusted average hourly pay remained the same in April, while average weekly earnings fell 0.1 percent, the Wall Street Journal reports.  Those numbers come from a Thursday report by the Department of Labor, which also said that average hourly pay has increased by just 0.2 percent since April 2017.  By contrast, in April 2015 hourly earnings were up 2.4 percent from the previous year.  The main difference is inflation—in 2015 low gasoline prices held down consumer prices, while the end of 2017 saw enough inflation to cancel out wage-gains.

A federal judge has ordered Wells Fargo to pay $97.3 million to compensate workers who were insufficiently paid for their breaks, CNN reports.  The court found that Wells Fargo did not provide the proper 10-minute paid breaks for every four hours on the job, as required under California law.  The ruling in the class-action suit applies to Wells Fargo consultants and bankers who worked at the company between March 2013 and August 2017.  The banking giant is facing more employment-related litigation in the future, with former employees suing in whistleblower actions along with class-action suits for overtime pay, according to the company’s Securities and Exchange Commission filing last week.

The Teamsters are in negotiations with UPS around a possible two-tier wage system that would allow the hiring of lower-paid drivers for weekend work, The Wall Street Journal reports.  The proposal would allow UPS to start regular delivery on Sundays without forcing the company to pay overtime to its weekday drivers, all in an effort to keep up with demand from the surging e-commerce sector.  The contract in negotiation is one of the largest collective bargaining agreements in the US, covering about 280,000 workers.  The potential two-tier system has aggravated tensions within the Teamsters, as three union officials were removed from the union’s negotiating committee last week for revealing the contract proposal to union members.

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