San Francisco Demands Uber and Lyft Driver-Pay Records

The city wants to ensure that drivers are adequately paid.

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Uber and Lyft have been repeatedly accused of inadequately compensating drivers, and now San Francisco is investigating the matter. City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent subpoenas to both ride-hailing companies demanding driver records from 2015 onwards.

A recent California Supreme Court decision requires companies to affirmatively prove that workers are independent contractors rather than full-time employees. Herrera wants to ensure that Uber and Lyft have proven that their drivers are contractors, or that the companies are giving them the proper pay and benefits if not.

The subpoenas seek a complete list of Uber and Lyft drivers that have completed at least one trip in San Francisco from 2015 to the present, documentation showing whether the company classifies each driver as an independent contractor or employee, and proof to justify contractor status. For any drivers classified as employees, the companies must provide documentation of hours worked, wages, healthcare payments, and other benefits.

In response to the subpoenas, Lyft told Engadget that it had a "long track record" of working with policymakers, and that it was eager to help the city attorney "fully understand" its business model. The company said its drivers make an average of $25 per hour before expenses. Uber has declined to comment publicly.

Uber and Lyft generally classify their drivers as independent contractors, and have gotten some support from the courts in this regard. The companies claim most of their drivers are part-timers who don't work enough hours to justify classification as employees. But treating drivers as contractors also allows the ride-hailing companies to save money on benefits, making the practice crucial to their business models. Uber and Lyft have made efforts to increase driver support services, but it seems unlikely that they will start treating drivers as employees.