San Francisco DA sues DoorDash for classifying delivery workers as independent contractors

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DoorDash is facing a lawsuit from San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin for “illegally misclassifying employees as independent contractors,” Boudin tweeted today. In the complaint, Boudin argues DoorDash misclassified its workers and in doing so, engages in unfair labor practices.

“Misclassifying workers deprives them of the labor law safeguards to which they are entitled, denying workers minimum wage and overtime pay, unemployment insurance and protection from discrimination, among other things,” Boudin said in a press release. “[…] Now, more than ever, with the COVID pandemic, we must protect our workers, especially those essential workers who are delivering food to us each and every day.”

In a statement to TechCrunch, DoorDash pointed to how it has supported its workers throughout the pandemic by providing them with safety equipment, telemedicine and more.

“Today’s action seeks to disrupt the essential services Dashers provide, stripping hundreds of thousands of students, teachers, parents, retirees and other Californians of valuable work opportunities, depriving local restaurants of desperately needed revenue, and making it more difficult for consumers to receive prepared food, groceries, and other essentials safely and reliably,” DoorDash global head of Public Policy Max Rettig said in a statement. “We will fight to continue providing Dashers the flexible earning opportunities they say they want in these challenging times.”

This suit comes as gig worker rights groups have urged companies like DoorDash, Uber, Lyft and Instacart to abide by AB 5. AB 5, which went into law earlier this year, outlines what type of worker can and cannot be classified as an independent contractor.

The law codifies the ruling established in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v Superior Court of Los Angeles. In that case, the court applied the ABC test and decided Dynamex wrongfully classified its workers as independent contractors.

According to the ABC test, in order for a hiring entity to legally classify a worker as an independent contractor, it must prove the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity, performs work outside the scope of the entity’s business and is regularly engaged in work of some independently established trade or other similar business. In the suit, Boudin describes how DoorDash does not meet the standards put forth by the ABC test.

“DoorDash’s misclassification of its Dashers was no mistake, but instead a calculated decision made to reduce the costs of doing business at the expense of the very workers providing the company’s core service of delivery: the delivery of merchandise from merchants to customer,” the suit states.

The suit seeks for DoorDash to stop classifying its workers as independent contractors and be fined up to $2,500 for each violation, as well as up to $2,500 for each violation against a senior citizen or disabled person.

DoorDash, Uber, Lyft, Postmates and Instacart are funding a ballot measure that would seek to make it legal for them to classify workers as independent contractors. Meanwhile, Uber and Lyft are facing a misclassification lawsuit from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with city attorneys from Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

That suit argues Uber and Lyft are depriving workers of the right to minimum wage, overtime, access to paid sick leave, disability insurance and unemployment insurance. The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of San Francisco, seeks $2,500 in penalties for each violation, possibly per driver, under the California Unfair Competition Law, and another $2,500 for violations against senior citizens or people with disabilities.