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Taxi drivers take legal action to gain employee status

Whether white, yellow or every shade in between, taxi cabs are a staple in most major metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles. Each year, millions of city residents and visitors rely upon taxis for transportation needs. Yet, for many individuals who make a living driving taxi cabs, wages earned during a 12 or 14 hour shift make it difficult to provide for oneself much less a family.

A recent employment class action lawsuit filed by five current and former cab drivers, aims to pave the way and improve conditions for taxi drivers across the country. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs' take aim at four taxi cab companies in one city claiming the defendants should be required to legally classify cab drivers as employees and not independent contractors.

The designation of employee status would require cab companies to pay drivers at least minimum wage as well as overtime pay. Additionally, drivers would have access to benefits such as paid time off and retirement and health benefits.

Currently, taxi drivers are treated as independent contractors who must lease a vehicle from a cab company and cover expenses associated with operating and maintaining the vehicle. Cab drivers are often forced to dig deep into their pockets to cover these costs, which can easily result in a driver paying expenses that equate to a day’s or week's worth of wages.

If the plaintiffs in this case are successful in winning employment status, cab companies in other cities would likely be forced to follow suit. Workers who believe an employer is violating employment laws pertaining to overtime pay and back wages would be wise to contact an employment law attorney.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Suit: Taxi drivers should be considered employees," Mitch Smith, March 26, 2014

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