D.C. Attorney General Supports Lyft Drivers in Sick Pay Suit (1) | D.C. Paid Sick Leave Rights

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D.C. Attorney General Supports Lyft Drivers in Sick Pay Suit (1)

Jul 21, 2020 / News Item / Bloomberg Law News — Erin Mulvaney

The District of Columbia’s attorney general has told a U.S. judge he’s backing Lyft Inc. drivers who argue they were misclassified as independent contractors, arguing D.C. law should govern whether the ongoing paid leave dispute can stay in court.

The ride sharing service is arguing the drivers are contractually bound to resolve their disputes individually through arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act, as well as the District’s Revised Uniform Arbitration Act.

The widespread use of arbitration agreements renders other district laws, including a paid leave law that requires employers to provide sick days to its employees, unenforceable, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine argued in a friend-of-the-court brief filed Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Racine argues the district’s law, which has a higher standard for enforcing arbitration, should be analyzed separately from the FAA.

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Ride share services such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft have long used arbitration agreements to keep driver misclassification disputes out of court, eluding a conclusive ruling on their business models that rely on independent contractors rather than employees.

The Lyft drivers argue that the company’s “take-it-or-leave-it” arbitration agreement contains a problematic waiver of rights to participate in a class action. Under the FAA, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the use of such class action waivers, but the district’s arbitration law “demands heightened scrutiny of adhesive arbitration agreements” and could void such an agreement.

D.C. law requires a detailed and fact-specific analysis that casts doubt on whether Lyft’s arbitration agreement could be enforced, according to Racine’s brief, because it lends itself to an imbalance between the worker and company.

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Christopher McNerney, an attorney for Outten & Golden who represents the drivers, said in a statement, “This filling illustrates that arbitration clauses that are adhesive and include class action waivers are unfair and should not be enforced under D.C. law.”

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