Lawsuits Stack Up in Employee vs. Contractor Battle of Summon-by-App Economy

Thanks to one Boston-based lawyer.

A Postmates delivery (AP Photo/Candice Choi)

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The lawyer behind lawsuits against Uber and Lyft over whether drivers should be considered employees or independent contractors is taking on similar companies.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, who’s based in Boston and has suits pending against the ride-service-on-demand companies in the Northern District Court of California, recently filed similar complaints against startups Shyp, Washio and Postmates.

The Boston Business Journal reports:

Liss-Riordan’s clients … claim that these companies exercise the same control over their workers, particularly those involved in delivery, as [Uber].

The California Labor Commission ruled last month that San Francisco-based Uber driver Barbara Ann Berwick is an employee of the ride-service giant. Uber is appealing; classifying drivers as independent contractors is central to its (booming) business model.

“The companies are setting rules and guidelines and threatening termination when the workers don’t follow those rules,” Liss-Riordan told the Journal. “It’s an inherent tension: They want to control their workers so they can provide a level of service that will grow their business, but they want to avoid labor costs and shift the expenses of running a business to their workers. They can’t do both.”

The Journal also reports that Shyp just publicly announced plans to count its couriers as employees, and that “the shift wasn’t made in response to the lawsuits against on-demand app companies.”

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Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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Tags: appsuberlawsuits

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