California's Aggrieved Uber Drivers Are Receiving Settlement Payments As Low As 15 Cents

A lawsuit filed in August of 2014 on behalf of California Uber drivers is finally paying out, and recipients of the $US7.75 million settlement are finding their share leaves something to be desired.

Back in August of 2014, a driver named Steven Price sued Uber for damages resulting from alleged labour misclassification, including failure to pay minimum wage and overtime, missed meal periods and rest periods, and unlawful business practices. In short, Price claimed Uber drivers were employees the company was treating as contractors, a scheme that has become a staple of the gig economy, most visibly affecting rideshare drivers, last-mile package couriers, and those engaged in food delivery or personal shopping.

That suit was settled in late January of this year, and payments were scheduled to arrive on or before last Friday.

That $US7.75 million was split among "any and all Drivers who consented to a background check as part of the sign-up process to use the Uber software application and/or used the Uber software application to generate leads in California at anytime from July 8,2013 up to and including January 29, 2017," according to the settlement. But after plaintiffs' attorney fees, administration costs, and allocations to the California Labour and Workforce Development Agency, the amount apportioned to drivers was less than $US1 million.

Even though the time period covered by the suit represents three and a half years, a number of drivers posting on Reddit and other ridershare driver forums describe payments of less than $US20 ($26) - some drastically so.

Three drivers sent Gizmodo copies of the notices they received. One was awarded $US7.05. Another, 75 cents. The third was given just 15 cents.

Though we were unable to verify settlement amounts beyond these three claims before publication, other posts suggest $US4 to $US5 was average.

This is partly a result of the structure of California's Private Attorneys General Act - a law for employee recovery of civil penalties in labour violations - and with class-action suits in general. But these meager payouts also read as an insult following the uproar around a recent study that found around half of rideshare drivers made below minimum wage.

We've reached out to Uber for comment and will update when we hear back.

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