Labor & Employment Law Daily Former driver files class action against Lyft for denying D.C.-mandated paid sick leave
Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Former driver files class action against Lyft for denying D.C.-mandated paid sick leave

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

The paid leave is critical in the current COVID-19 environment, which could last for years, the plaintiff says.

A woman who worked as a Lyft driver from about November 2015 to June 2018 has filed a class action lawsuit against the rideshare company, alleging that it systematically fails to provide Washington, D.C., drivers with paid sick leave under the District’s Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act (ASSLA), invoking the current COVID-19 pandemic to characterize the paid sick leave as critical to public health and the current pandemic.

“Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, which some experts predict could last for years the need for paid sick leave is vitally important,” according to the complaint. “Without it, Lyft forces its drivers into a Hobbesian choice: risk their lives (and the lives of their passengers) or risk their livelihoods. The D.C. Council enacted the ASSLA so that workers would not have to make such a choice.”

Paid sick leave requirement. Under the ASSLA, employers with 100 or more employees must provide not less than one hour of paid sick leave for every 37 hours worked, the plaintiff contends. Sick leave may be used for physical or mental illness, preventive medical care, caring for an ill child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or other family member, and/or an absence because the employee or employee’s family member is a victim of “stalking, domestic violence, or sexual abuse.”

“Bait and switch” policy. The plaintiff alleges that “Lyft in particular has a history of failing to comply with the ASSLA, to the detriment of its drivers and the public.” While the company has claimed to provide paid sick leave to drivers during the COVID-19 pandemic, “the policy has been criticized as ‘illusory’ and a ‘bait and switch.’”

Purportedly, Lyft’s 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.” The plaintiff describes this policy as “vague and limited.” The policy also covers a significantly smaller percentage of workers than would be covered under the ASSLA, the complaint asserts.

Relief sought. In addition to the certification of a Rule 23 class, the plaintiff is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief including a preliminary and permanent order enjoining Lyft from continuing its unlawful practices; monetary relief for the value of any paid sick leave denied; statutory, compensatory, and punitive damages; and attorneys’ fees and costs, among other relief.

“This lawsuit is critical to ensuring that frontline workers in Washington, D.C., receive the benefit of the strong sick leave protections provided under D.C. law,” said Outten & Golden partner Sally J. Abrahamson, one of the plaintiff’s lawyers.

The lawsuit, Osvatics v. Lyft, Inc., was filed in the District of Columbia; the case is No. 1:20-cv-01426-KB

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