In a move that will have significant ramifications for New Jersey Uber workers’ compensation claims, the ridesharing company has agreed to pay $100 million in back contributions to the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund after an audit found the company had misclassified hundreds of thousands of drivers as independent contractors.
This classification allowed Uber to avoid providing protections to their employees such as workers’ compensation. The decision has far-reaching implications not just for Uber drivers, but also for workers in other “gig economy” jobs like those with Lyft, Amazon, and DoorDash.
While this development is not directly related to New Jersey workers’ compensation claims, it strengthens the rights of countless possible claimants throughout the state.
If you’re an Uber or other rideshare driver, here are 3 things you need to know about this development:
1. Uber Prevented Drivers from Recovering Benefits Like Workers’ Compensation
Recently, Uber Technologies agreed to pay $100 million in back contributions to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Unemployment Trust Fund after an audit found the ridesharing company misclassified hundreds of thousands of drivers as independent contractors.
To sum up, every business that operates in New Jersey is required to contribute to the unemployment fund, which exists to help New Jersey residents when they are unable to work. Uber classified their drivers as independent contractors to get out of contributing to the fund—and having to provide protections for their employees in a multitude of other ways, as well. The NJDOL called out Uber for its gamesmanship, and eventually Uber agreed to make the back payment, essentially admitting that their drivers are in fact employees rather than independent contractors.
2. What This Means for New Jersey Uber Workers’ Compensation Claims
While this development is not directly related to New Jersey workers’ compensation, it has very deep ramifications in our firm’s area of expertise. For years, Uber, and other “gig economy” employers have played the same games with workers’ compensation claims. They denied liability for taking care of their injured workers – claiming they were independent contractors rather than employees.
With the question of employment being nebulous, we have been able to successfully resolve claims in a favorable manner for many clients by way of Section 20 awards — which put substantial money in the pockets of our clients while still allowing the respondent to maintain a denial of any liability — rather than risk the courts possibly confirming Uber drivers are not in fact “employees”. Our clients have been consistently satisfied with securing great financial recoveries while avoiding the delays and risks associated with appellate-level of litigation.
As noted above, there are hundreds of thousands of registered Uber drivers in New Jersey. According to the audit, 297,866 drivers to be exact. And while this decision was particular to Uber, it goes without saying that it will affect every ridesharing and delivery company that plays these same independent contractor games, including Amazon, Lyft, and DoorDash just to name a few.
Considering the nature of these jobs and the number of New Jersey residents who take part in them — even in a part-time capacity to supplement their income in a tough economy — this action bolsters and strengthens the rights of countless possible workers’ compensation claimants throughout the state.
3. Our Commitment to Uber Drivers and Other Rideshare Workers’ Compensation Claims
This concession by Uber gives us a new and shiny weapon in our arsenal when fighting to get as much as possible for our New Jersey workers’ compensation clients, especially those who work for ridesharing and/or delivery companies. We will use Uber’s admission to demonstrate to judges that both the NJDOL and Uber itself have already made clear that drivers are in fact employees and decisions regarding the liability of these kinds of cases should clearly be made in light of this understanding.
This will allow us to push for even higher awards and ongoing benefits, increasing the value of each case referred to us. Our experienced and aggressive team, which includes numerous attorneys board certified in workers’ compensation, will continue to fight insurance companies and carriers with aggressive, creative, and bold tactics.
We plan on being at the forefront of this fight.
Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen: New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyers
Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen – The People First Lawyers have been helping injured workers with their New Jersey workers’ comp claims since 1995. We work tirelessly for our clients to ensure you receive medical care, financial compensation, and justice, regardless of an adjuster or insurance carrier’s claim denials. With four Board Certified Workers’ Compensation Law attorneys on our team, we are well-equipped to handle your Uber workers’ compensation claim.
Adam Kotlar, Esq.
Adam is an aggressive and diligent trial attorney and the founder of Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen. He is one of only four attorneys in the state of New Jersey to be Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as both a Civil Trial and a Workers’ Compensation Law Attorney among other accolades.