Uber Technologies Inc. agreed to pay nearly $3.5 million to 15,717 independent contractor drivers in Seattle to settle allegations under the city’s Paid Sick and Safe Time for Gig Workers Ordinance, according to Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards.
The ordinance allows independent contractor drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft Inc. to earn paid sick leave to care for themselves or others or if a company suspends service. The ordinance went into effect July 13, 2020, and is slated to remain in effect during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We commend the Office of Labor Standards and Uber for working together to reach a settlement agreement that upholds drivers’ right to paid sick days,” said Peter Kuel, president of Drivers Union, who started driving for Uber and Lyft in 2014. “Ensuring drivers have the ability to stay home if they are sick is good for public health, good for drivers’ wellbeing and a precedent-setting victory for the labor movement,” said Kuel in comments included in the Office of Labor Standards’ press release.
The office began its investigation after complaints from independent contractor drivers. Uber also conducted several audits that found software glitches had prevented some independent contractor drivers from accessing their paid sick and safe time accounts. The glitches also resulted in some drivers’ paid sick and safe time balances to be undercounted. In addition, some drivers had their leave requests inadvertently cancelled and some were required to wait a calendar day following their leave request before being able to use it.
Uber voluntarily corrected the issues.
“When Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Time for Gig Workers Ordinance was passed last summer, we worked over a few weeks to build an entirely new payment system to comply with the law in a timely manner,” said Uber Public Affairs Manager Harry Hartfield in the Office of Labor Standards’ press release. “While the vast majority of workers claimed their paid sick and safe time without an issue, we’re grateful that the Office of Labor Standards worked in partnership with us as we improved our systems to ensure accurate and prompt payments.”
Uber’s $3.5 million payment includes $1,278,810.30 to resolve claims for back wages, interest, liquidated damages and civil penalties for 2,329 affected workers and $2,171,372.82 in advance payment of unused paid sick and safe time to 15,084 workers.
Also, Uber will pay $11,130.20 to the city of Seattle.
The Office of Labor Standards lauded the company’s efforts to be compliant.
“On behalf of the Office of Labor Standards, I want to thank Uber for taking responsibility for their noncompliance issues with Seattle’s labor standards and quickly working to make gig workers whole,” said Office of Labor Standards Director Steven Marchese. “OLS is ready to work with any gig economy company that is looking to do right by gig workers in order to comply with our ordinances. Seattle depends on drivers to keep our gig economy thriving and we in turn support them with protections like the Gig Worker Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance.”