A class action lawsuit filed against Uber, a tech-based service that connects riders to drivers and has filled San Francisco streets with sleek black town cars, alleges that the company is cheating its drivers out of tips.
The suit also charges that drivers have been misclassified as independent contractors under California law.
Uber's website tells customers there is "no need to tip," and drivers are prohibited from accepting any extra cash. The complaint alleges that "drivers do not receive the tips that are customary in the car service industry and that they would otherwise receive were it not for Uber's communication to customers that they do not need to tip."
The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco's Northern District on Aug. 16. Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan told us that by withholding tips, "Uber is artificially trying to make the total price look lower — and in doing so, they're hurting the drivers."
Douglas O'Connor, named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said that when he started working as an Uber driver in San Francisco about 10 months ago, he was told not to accept tips because they were included in the service fees automatically charged to customers' credit cards. But there's nothing in his paycheck to indicate whether he has received a gratuity or for what amount, O'Connor said.
"For some of the drivers there has been a line item, but that line item that's called the gratuity has not gone to the drivers," Liss-Riordan explained. In those cases, it appears Uber takes half, she said. And in cases like O'Connor's, "There is no separate gratuity that's going to the drivers," Liss-Riordan said, so the representation that any tip was included in the first place is "a lie."
Uber spokesperson Andrew Noyes told the Guardian, "While we have not yet been served with this complaint, the allegations made against our company are entirely without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously... Frivolous lawsuits like this cost valuable time, money, and resources that are better spent making cities more accessible."
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