Is Uber really the gift to freelancers that it seems to think it is? Many people aren’t so sure anymore.
Uber is a service that connects users in need of rides to drivers in need of cash. Drivers use their own cars, their own gas and their own insurance and are considered contractors by the company.
Uber recently came under fire for a self-congratulatory blog post that praised its service for helping struggling teachers. Uber presents itself as a provider of a sort of entrepreneurial start-up kit, not a transportation company, providing workers with an app, a stream of customers, and a cost-effective POS system to track transactions and expenses.
But many are arguing that Uber contractors are in fact employees, and that by treating them as contractors, Uber is dodging costs and leaving its workers out in the cold.
Several lawsuits filed by Uber drivers say that drivers should be treated as full-fledged employees, especially when it comes to tax season.
“It’s the newest spin to avoid employee classification,” Power labor lawyer Liss-Riordan, who’s behind the recent lawsuits, told the Boston Globe. “By not classifying its drivers as employees, Uber is shifting the expenses of running a business to its workers.”
Uber drivers are currently responsible for everything that would typically be covered by employee benefits, like health insurance, social security taxes, workers compensation and unemployment insurance.
Uber argues that these measures are a gift to freelancers who don’t have the funds to start up their own businesses and who want the freedom to choose their own hours and operating tactics. The lawsuits argue that Uber and other similar share companies are just cutting costs to maximize profits.
The IRS has a 20-factor test to differentiate contractors from employees and prevent potentially exploitative situations. Labor advocates argue that Uber is violating a major factor: how much control they exert over workers.
Many Uber contractors have reported being given “suggestions” on how to dress, how to act, what music to play in their cars, and other workplace factors.
What will come out of the lawsuits remains to be seen, but there’s a good chance that share companies like Uber may not exist in their current forms for much longer.