Cassandra Osvatics, a driver for Lyft, filed a class action complaint against Lyft for its failure to provide paid sick leave, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The suit is filed in the District of Columbia District Court. Osvatics is represented by Outten & Golden.
Washington, D.C. and other jurisdictions require companies to provide protections to workers, including “minimum wage guarantees, expense reimbursement requirements, and…paid sick leave.” Paid sick leave has been found by experts to be “a significant way to reduce the spread of illness,” which is crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic. The D.C. Accrued Safe and Sick Leave Act (ASSLA) requires companies, including Lyft to provide paid sick leave.
Osvatics said “[g]iven the current COVID-19 pandemic… the need for paid sick leave is vitally important. Without it, Lyft forces its drivers into a Hobbesian choice: risk their lives (and the lives of their passengers) or risk their livelihoods.” This defies the ASSLA, according to the complaint, which was designed to ensure workers would not have to choose. Though Lyft states that it has provided paid sick leave during the pandemic, “the policy has been criticized as ‘illusory’ and a ‘bait and switch.’ Lyft’s allegedly vague and limited paid sick leave does not comply with the ASSLA because it only covers ‘drivers diagnosed with COVID-19 or put under individual quarantine by a public health agency – [for] an amount determined by the driver’s previous activity on the Lyft platform.”
Osvatics argued that Lyft drivers are misclassified as independent workers, and instead, should be classified as employees because the drivers “provide or provided the service that Lyft sells to the public,” transportation. The plaintiff argued that “[d]rivers lack business autonomy. Drivers are not engaged in an independently established business. They cannot provide transportation services without the Lyft App and cannot use contacts made through the Lyft App to solicit private transportation clients. Drivers are dependent on Lyft to identify riders for them…Lyft drivers in the District of Columbia are required to display the Lyft emblem when driving for it.”
The plaintiff alleged that Lyft’s paid sick leave policy does not comply with the ASSLA. The company “did not provide [her] with any paid sick leave during her employment. As a result, on multiple occasions, Plaintiff drove for Lyft while sick because she relied on hourly and tipped work for her wages and to pay bills.”
Under ASSLA, according to the complaint, Lyft should have provided its drivers with “not less than one hour of paid leave for every 37 hours worked, not to exceed 7 days per calendar year.” She claimed that these violations were willful and intentional. Osvatics added that the “statute of limitations has been tolled since the enactment of ASSLA” because Lyft does not post anything relevant to this statute. Plaintiff states that she and the class are entitled to recover damages.
Osvatics has sought to certify a class action, She also sought injunctive and declaratory relief, an order for Lyft to “eradicate the effects of past and present unlawful employment practices regarding sick leave”; monetary relief from damages; pre- and post-judgment interest; an award for attorneys’ fees and costs; payment of a reasonable service award; and other relief as determined by the court.
A Massachusetts judge recently rejected an injunction in a similar Lyft sick time case, despite the drivers’ likelihood of success.