Bay Area Uber drivers in a worker misclassification lawsuit ask lead lawyer to step down

A group of angry Uber drivers say they’ve been screwed over by their own lawyers in a worker misclassification lawsuit and are asking lead attorney representing the drivers in the case, ShannonLiss-Riordan, to step down.

Uber drivers filed a class-action lawsuit claiming they have been misclassified as independent contractors and should be compensated by Uber for expenses like health insurance, gas and vehicle maintenance.

The worker-misclassification settlement proposal includes $84 million in payment, with an additional $16 million should Uber have a successful IPO.

But the proposal doesn’t begin to cover driver expenses. Payouts would amount to a mere $218 – peanuts – for most of the 385,000 drivers in the suit – that’s without the lawyer’s fees.

Then there’s the tax penalties lofted onto rideshare drivers in the city. San Francisco ruled in April the 37,000 drivers operating within city limits must pay $91 a year moving forward and potentially owe thousands in back-taxes and fees to the city – all because both Uber and Lyft contend their drivers are not employees but independent workers.

However, the drivers lawyers stand to gain a significant $25 million (25 percent of the settlement as their cut) for their firm if the proposal goes through.

Minus the lawyer’s fees, Uber drivers in the suit will end up pocketing $163 each. Take the $91 tax into account and drivers end up with practically nothing for their efforts to fight the system.

But it’s not just about how little drivers stand to gain in the payout. Class action lawsuits are notorious for paying next to nothing to a large group of those involved. These drivers really wanted benefits and protections for the long-term.

Drivers say Liss-Riordan “struck a bad deal in their name” and that they stand to lose a “significant number” of protections and benefits if they are forced to sign away their rights under the current arrangement.

“When lawyers, lobbyists, and executives push policies that make themselves richer, we end up paying the price. Everybody is getting rich off of our work, while as Uber drivers we often have to take ‘negative rides,’ where we earn nothing, and hope an accident doesn’t bankrupt us. We are coming to the public so that everyone can know that we are getting hurt by these unfair Uber regulations and that this is how economic inequality happens.

Uber believes the proposed terms are adequate and the settlement offer is expected to go through.

“The settlement terms, especially the significant non-monetary benefits, is fair and reasonable—particularly in a case where we believe the class action should not have gone forward at all,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Liss-Riordan will be at the Federal District Court in San Francisco today to discuss the settlement proposal terms and wrote on her website regarding the case that most of the drivers are more concerned with getting paid.

“A vocal minority of drivers are not happy with the settlement. However, more than 2,500 drivers have contacted our office since the settlement was announced, most of whom have asked when and how they can get their money. Far more drivers have thanked us for what we have accomplished than have criticized the settlement. The lawyers who have raised objections do not understand the legal issues or posture of the case. Most I believe are jumping in opportunistically so they can get a piece of the settlement, and some of the loudest don’t even practice in this area of law.  I believe this has been driving a lot of the driver misunderstandings about the settlement and objections to it (only about 22 drivers out of 385,000 have filed objections). The settlement provides important changes that will improve drivers’ work lives, provide them more job security, increase their income (through the revised tipping policy), provide them an avenue to challenge pay issues, and provide them a voice in company policies through the driver association.  These programmatic changes address the major sources of concerns we have been hearing from drivers since this case has been pending.  And the settlement does not answer the question of whether drivers are properly classified as employees or independent contractors, a question that will be answered another day.  And the money this settlement will put in the pockets of drivers who have driven the most is substantial – in the thousands of dollars.  Widespread media reports of the average payments (or large number of nominal payments) did not address that those driver barely worked at all (a few days most likely). I think those deceptive reports of low individual settlement payments also fueled some of this response.”