Uber Driver & Advocate Lorri Trosper Files a Class Action Suit to Recover Unpaid Tips & Other Damages
If you drive for Uber (or did) you might be entitled to compensation. That was our goal in filing a national lawsuit against the ride share giant. Over the years we have been contacted by hundreds of drivers across the United States. All with common complaints… Uber steals tips, Uber plays “bait and switch” with incentive and leasing programs, Uber boots otherwise good drivers off the app for no reason and Uber won’t insure drivers make a minimum wage.
There were so many complaints, we decided to file a national lawsuit as well as state specific lawsuits for drivers in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. A similar lawsuit filed by a different law firm had some initial wins in New York and California. Buoyed by those wins we decided to take on Uber.
Our Lawsuit: Uber Stole Driver Tips & is Blocking Drivers’ Legal Rights
This post was originally made in May, 2016. Since then, all of us fighting for Uber drivers faced some monumental losses. But there may finally be some good news for a few drivers.
Our story begins with our national class action lawsuit filed Sunday May 1 by Uber driver activist Lorri Trosper seeking compensation for hundreds of thousands of drivers nationwide.
That lawsuit sought to expose Uber’s:
- Failure to properly pay drivers tips auto-collected from passengers under their rider agreement; and
- Failure to provide drivers with federal and state benefits, protections and minimum wages by illegally classifying drivers as independent contractors. We say Uber did this simply to avoid paying livable wages.
We used several complaints to sue both Uber and its then CEO Travis Kalanick. Highlights of the lawsuits included:
- Filed on behalf of drivers nationwide by former Uber driver and nationwide driver advocate Lorri Trosper;
- Attorney Brian Mahany is the lawyer who tagged Bank of America for the largest single defendant settlement in history at $16.65 billion and other wins against powerful corporations; (not a spelling error)
- United States Federal District Court for Northern District of Illinois to include Uber drivers in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and all U.S. states.
Why We Filed Class Action Lawsuits
Uber is a multi-billion dollar corporation with almost unlimited money while the individual drivers responsible for Uber’s success are real people working to support their families.
Most people believe that when a mega corporation imposes unfair policies, engages in illegal activities that financially harm their workers, and otherwise ignores employees’ rights – there is nothing that can be done.
You can’t fight an international company with hundreds of lawyers charged with eliminating any barrier to more profits – or can you? Yes you can fight back!
Uber drivers CAN fight back with this class action lawsuit. Lorri Trosper, the advocate for Uber drivers in this lawsuit, selected a class action because it allows a handful of drivers who have been harmed in the same way (here stolen rights and tips) to sue on behalf of all others who were also Uber victims similarly cheated. This large group is “the class” in the class action lawsuit – you can join.
An individual driver can’t afford to sue Uber. And the company knows that. Lawyers are reluctant to take on a single case. Sue for a couple thousand dollars in lost tips? Although even a few hundred dollars is important to many Uber drivers struggling to feed their families, lawyers can’t afford these cases. A class action, however, makes the case financially worthwhile and gives the drivers strength in numbers. Uber can ignore a lone driver but not tens of thousands of drivers.
A victory at trial or by settlement would have been win for all drivers. We say would have been because subsequent court rulings really limited the number of drivers who will receive a check.
Why MahanyLaw – Billion Dollar Experience & Aggressive Lawyers
Billion dollar companies get away with misconduct every single day. Even if someone files a class action lawsuit, the mega-company spends millions on lawyers to crush any opponent with delay, deception and truckloads of paperwork.
Lorri selected MahanyLaw because:
- Experience – Founder Brian Mahany is one of a select few American lawyers with billion dollar case experience. (Billions in settlements and wins quite recently) His brand power causes opponents to take his clients very seriously.
- Lawyers who Care – MahanyLaw attorneys treat clients like family, always. You speak with an experienced lawyer rather than being shuffled to a staff member or inexperienced attorney.
- MahanyLaw Does Not Back Down – Brian Mahany and his team are not looking for a quick settlement or fast fee. They have the resources and drive to take a case to trial against wrongdoers of any size.
Uber Lawsuits – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
2017 UBER CLASS ACTION UPDATE
All of our actions have been dismissed. But keep reading, there is still hope and some recent victories!
First the bad and the ugly.
What Went Wrong? (Why Did the Courts Dismiss So Many Uber Lawsuits?)
Despite several courtroom defeats, we believe that Uber does not treat its drivers fairly. Nothing has changed, in fact, we think Uber’s behavior has become worse.
Back in 2016, there were some early court victories. Judge Chen in San Francisco and Judge Rakoff in New York City ruled for drivers. We hoped the trend would continue. Although we knew we had a steep climb in front of us, the cause was just. Uber drivers are treated like second class citizens and it seems that the company’s promises are often empty.
We filed our national class case on the theory that the onerous lawsuit waiver and class action waiver provisions of the driver’s agreements were void and violated public policy. What legitimate employer would have an employee or contractor sign a contract saying they couldn’t sue? The 7th Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees people the right to a jury trial.
Courts were split, however, on whether or not an employee could waive their right to a trial and give up their right to participate in a class action. There was case law in what is called the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. This court covers the Midwest states of Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois. That case law suggested these waiver clauses were invalid. (That is why we filed our three cases in those states) As noted above, at least two judges in San Francisco and New York also agreed.
Unfortunately, despite some early court victories, Uber drivers lost. Have you heard the saying about “winning the battle but losing the war”? That’s what happened here.
Uber appealed all the decisions that went against them and unfortunately found an ally in the federal appeals courts. They also spent millions on lobbyists and convinced state legislatures to pass laws mandating that ride share drivers be treated as independent contractors and not employees. More on the appeals below.
Our cases were part of the many cases that were ultimately dismissed. The court ruled that by clicking “accept” when signing up for Uber on the app, drivers waived their right to sue the company or participate in a class action. About the only thing they could was file an individual arbitration.
After the Uber drivers lost their appeals in the spring and summer of 2017, organized labor jumped in and expressed an interest in tackling Uber. There is strength in numbers and if these organizing efforts are ultimately successful, Uber will be forced to take drivers more seriously.
Union membership means dues but the benefits may outweigh any costs.
Federal Appeals Court Overturns Record Win by Uber Drivers
Another black news day for Uber drivers. On September 25, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the historic decision of Judge Edward Chen allowing Uber drivers to claim they were employees entitled to minimum wages and overtime pay. Judge Chen’s rulings, if upheld, would have made it easier for drivers to claim tips and expense reimbursements.
The decision of the 9th Circuit reverses Judge Chen’s orders and represents a huge victory for Uber.
A panel of three judges concluded that the lawsuit waivers contained in the drivers’ agreements are enforceable. That means that drivers are forced to individually arbitrate their claims against the ride sharing giant.
Judge Chen had ruled in favor of drivers in California two years ago. The California decision was one of the very few to be successful. Our cases and those of dozens of other great lawyers had already gone down in flames. Judge Chen’s rulings in California offered Uber drivers everywhere a glimmer of hope.
That glimmer was extinguished in September. (We will never give up hope, however.)
The court said that the Federal Arbitration Act “requires courts to enforce agreements to arbitrate according to their terms in order to place an arbitration agreement upon the same footing as other contracts . . . and to overrule the judiciary’s longstanding refusal to enforce agreements to arbitrate. To that end, [the law] declares that a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce to settle by arbitration a controversy thereafter arising out of such contract or transaction . . . shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.”
In simple English, the appeals court said that agreements to arbitrate should be enforced.
Our problems with the ruling are two fold. First, the arbitration clauses are buried in the fine print of the driver’s agreement. The average driver doesn’t read fine print, particularly when many drivers sign up to drive on an app.
Second, we don’t think a corporation should be allowed to force a worker to give up their legal rights. The Constitution gives us the right to seek redress in the courts. Uber says that drivers can waive their legal rights by a few clicks of a mouse. The courts agreed with Uber.
The ruling doesn’t prevent drivers from making claims but each will have to do so in a cumbersome individual arbitration proceeding. And with each claim being arbitrated individually, 99.9% of drivers can’t afford legal counsel on their own.
Why do Uber drivers have to handle these cases on their own? Great question. The fine print in the driver’s agreement does much more than force drivers to give up their right to sue. It also says they cannot participate in a class action.
In a class action, hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of claim can be litigated in a single lawsuit. Individual drivers can opt out and not participate but most go along because they can’t afford the thousands of dollars necessary to fight Uber.
With lawsuits and class actions out, very few drivers will be able to challenge Uber.
The Bad News Gets Worse
More recently, the U.S Supreme Court weighed in on another case and ruled once and for all that a person’s Constitutional right to a trial can be waived. The only thing that can change things now is if Congress steps in and fixes the problem. Until that happens, we monitor all the Uber litigation and hope that someone will finally find a theory that allows drivers to sue for unpaid wages, benefits, lost tips, unfair dismissal and the like.
Is there any hope? Yes.
Uber Drivers Win Major Victory
In early 2019, a North Carolina federal judge approved a $1.3 million settlement against Uber in a case filed on behalf of 5,200 drivers. The drivers claimed they were misclassified them as independent contractors, meaning they were not eligible for the minimum wage and overtime guaranties of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Uber had disagreed.
The lawsuit was originally filed in July 2016 by driver Michael Hood. After the case was certified as a class action, approximately 5200 drivers opted into the case.
The class certification covered drivers throughout the United States. It covered only those few drivers, however, who had opted out of the mandatory arbitration clause in their driver’s agreement with Uber.
As we have noted before, courts across the United States have upheld the mandatory arbitration clause used by Uber. That clause says drivers agree not to sue the company nor participate in a class action case.
Unfortunately, only a tiny percentage of Uber drivers read the fine print in their driver’s agreement before clicking to accept. Even fewer realize they can opt-out of that provision and do so.
Out of hundreds of thousands of past and present Uber drivers, just 5200 had opted out of the arbitration clause and subsequently opted in to the lawsuit. That’s great for them but does little for the majority of Uber drivers.
Under the settlement, Uber will pay $1.3 million. $734,292 will be paid to drivers and $434,000 to the lawyers for the drivers. The remaining monies is earmarked for other costs.
California and Massachusetts Drivers – Victory at Hand?
One of the original lawsuits filed against Uber was filed on behalf of Uber drivers in Massachusetts and California. That case has been somewhat of a yo-yo. The drivers win, then they lose… and now in August of 2019 it looks like they have won. This is one of the biggest victories to date for drivers and one six years in the making. Don’t get too excited, however, once again it only applies to 13,600 drivers who opted out of arbitration and is further limited to drivers in Massachusetts and California.
Ironically, it wasn’t Uber who stood in the way of the settlement. It was the drivers themselves. Many thought the settlement was too low and demanded more money. They also demanded that the drivers be classified as employees, something never resolved in the settlement.
The Latest Battle is in Legislative Halls, Not Courtrooms
Despite all the lawsuits nationwide, unless you timely opted out of the mandatory arbitration clause in the driver’s agreement, chances are none of these lawsuits help you. Now drivers are teaming up with legislators to change the law on mandatory arbitration clauses and independent contractor status.
California Assembly Bill 5 would make it difficult for ride share businesses to classify their workers as independent contractors. If they are employees, they are eligible for overtime pay, employment protections and minimum wage guarantees.
Uber sunk to a new low recently by using messages to drivers urging them to oppose the legislation. Uber tells drivers that by telling lawmakers to oppose the bill, they are protecting driver flexibility. Not only is that false, they fail to tell the drivers that if the bill fails (which is what Uber and Lyft) wants, drivers will continue to be denied the most basic of protections.
Uber makes money by not following US labor laws and its the drivers and their families that suffer.
It’s not just California lawmakers that are mulling a legislative fix. A bill in Congress called the Protecting the Right to Organize Act would prevent companies from forcing workers to sign away their rights if they want a job. Predictably, business groups oppose the measure and say it will cost our economy 393,000 jobs.
No action is expected on the bill until after the 2020 elections.
Uber Must Pay $148 Million in Data Breach Case
Just one day after crushing drivers, Uber suffered a setback. The company agreed to pay $148 million in a joint settlement with all fifty states over a huge data breach in 2016. The settlement with the states does not settle consumer claims.
Uber faced many state enforcement actions after a story broke that hackers accessed payment records of 57 million riders. Compounding the problem, the company allegedly hid the breach and paid hackers to cover up the breach. The company’s legal counsel said in a blog post, “We know that earning the trust of our customers and the regulators we work with globally is no easy feat. After all, trust is hard to gain and easy to lose.”
Let’s hope the company starts to work on building trust with its drivers.
Are you entitled to a settlement check? Click the link for the Uber Settlement Claims Information page.
Reminder – We are not taking any new Uber cases. We fought the good fight on behalf of drivers, lost lots of money fighting that fight and ultimately lost. Hopefully Congress and the states will fix the problems made by Uber and made worse by the courts. That’s our two cents.
We cherish the opportunity to have represented so many hard working men and women.