Uber has agreed to pay $3.4 million to more than 15,000 drivers in Seattle to settle charges that drivers may not have been compensated for their paid sick days during the coronavirus pandemic.
The ride-hailing company will give about $2.2 million in advance to drivers who had not yet used all of their paid sick time, removing one day from their available bank. About $1.2 million, which includes interest and other fees, will go toward drivers who couldn’t claim or get approved requested days off.
Last June, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved legislation mandating that app-based companies such as Uber and DoorDash offer their Seattle workers paid sick days during the pandemic.
Under the sick-pay bill, drivers and delivery people working in Seattle should have received some sick days upfront and accrued one sick day for every 30 days worked. Pay during sick days would be based on a driver’s daily average in their top-earning month since October.
However, following complaints from drivers that may not have been happening, Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards began an investigation into the practice.
Uber also conducted several audits and said due to issues with software, some workers were not able to access their accounts that stored information about the number of sick days they had available. Some workers also had their sick day requests canceled or were not able to immediately use them.
“This has been an ongoing process for several months,” said Harry Hartfield, a spokesperson for Uber. “We’ve been working with Seattle to correct the issues and make sure drivers were paid correctly for any time they had been approved.”
Uber will also pay the city of Seattle about $11,000 in fines.
Peter Kuel, who has driven for Uber and Lyft since 2014 and is president of the drivers union that advocates for ride-hailing workers, said enabling drivers to stay home if they are sick “is good for public health, good for drivers’ well-being, and a precedent-setting victory for the labor movement.”
Papa Diawara, an immigrant from Mali who has driven for Uber for seven years, said he took three days off to support his wife who had emergency surgery but didn’t get paid for it. “It was tough for me. I had to go work more hours to make money to help my wife. It was hard going back and forth.”
Thursday’s announcement follows other legal battles Seattle has fought with Uber.
In 2015, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed an ordinance allowing drivers for ride-hailing apps to form a union and collectively bargain over working conditions, such as hours and pay.
Two years later, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and about a dozen Lyft and Uber drivers filed lawsuits arguing drivers, who are classified as independent contractors and not employees, do not have the right to unionize under federal law, among other claims.
The City Council later removed provisions from the law allowing drivers to negotiate over pay if they organized, and last year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Uber subsidiary Raiser LLC agreed to dismiss the case.
Meanwhile, City Council members unanimously voted for a new pay formula for Uber and Lyft drivers meant to ensure they earn at least the $16.69 per hour minimum wage other workers in the city make.
Uber and Lyft also fought with Seattle to keep their ridership data secret, before later dropping the challenge and allowing the data to become public.
And in 2018, Uber paid Washington state drivers about $2.2 million after their driver’s license numbers and other personal information were exposed by hackers in a data breach two years earlier that the company had failed to report.