An LA-based Uber driver who says he was beaten up by a customer filed a class action accusing the ride-hailing upstart of refusing to buy workers’ compensation insurance.
According to the report in Courthouse News Service, Uber driver and lead plaintiff Omar Zine on Friday sued Uber Technologies, Rasier LLC, Rasier-CA, Laju Choudhury, and a person identified only as Doe Assailant, in LA County Superior Court.
The California Labor Commission in June rejected Uber’s arguments that it is a “neutral technological platform,” finding that the company is “involved in every aspect of the operation.” Given that involvement, the commission determined that drivers are properly classified as employees and ordered Uber to pay driver Barbara Berwick $4,152 in reimbursable business expenses.
Nevertheless, the plaintiff alleges that Uber still classifies drivers as independent contractors so it can avoid covering them under workers’ compensation insurance. This lack of coverage meant he could not drive and earn income for weeks after a customer’s friend beat him up, according to the complaint.
The plaintiff says he was driving Choudhury and Doe in December 2014 when he and Doe got into an argument: “A verbal dispute occurred and Doe assailant escalated this situation by repeatedly, and viciously, punching and hitting plaintiff in the face and head. Attorneys say that the assailant used a metal pipe or similar object during the assault. “He is driving again, but is not able to go back to full-time work,” his attorney added. He is now allegedly permanently disabled and has struggled with depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and humiliation after the “heinous beating” he suffered.
He also claims there are thousands of current and former drivers who are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits they never received because Uber misclassified them as independent contractors. Zine wants a declaration that Uber must classify all drivers as employees, restitution for himself and all class members for all the profits Uber made by failing to protect them with workers’ compensation coverage, and special, punitive and exemplary damages for unfair business practices, assault and battery.
Uber has been the target of several similar lawsuits since the 2013 suit brought by former drivers claiming they were misclassified as contractors. In June this year, Uber drivers Lori Kellett and David Cotoi of Los Angeles sued Uber for allegedly failing to pay overtime and regular wages and not providing them with meal and rest breaks. An administrative law judge in mid July recommended that Uber be fined $7.3 million for breaking several California laws, such as failing to report on disabled accessibility requirements and problems with drivers. Uber stated that it would appeal the ruling.