The California Labor Commissioner's Office announced Thursday that it has filed separate lawsuits against ride hailing services Uber and Lyft, accusing the companies of wage theft by misclassifying employees as independent contractors.
The suits, both filed in Alameda County Superior Court, claim that classifying drivers as independent contractors violates state labor laws and denies drivers basic workplace protections such as paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, minimum wages and overtime pay.
Neither company responded to requests for comment Thursday evening.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued Uber and Lyft in San Francisco Superior Court in May, also accusing them of illegally classifying their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.
Since January, under Assembly Bill 5, California law has required that companies determine whether their workers are employees or independent contractors based on a three-part assessment: whether the workers are directed by the company, whether their work is the same as what the company normally does and whether it is the worker's usual work.
Uber, Lyft and other "gig economy" companies have opposed the law, saying their workers prefer having the freedom to work flexible hours without the commitments required of employees.
The labor commissioner's lawsuit seeks to recover wages for the more than 100,000 estimated people who drive for the two companies.
"The Uber and Lyft business model rests on the misclassification of drivers as independent contractors," California Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower said in a statement. "This leaves workers without protections such as paid sick leave and reimbursement of drivers' expenses, as well as overtime and minimum wages."
The Labor Commissioner's Office said it has received claims from 5,000 drivers for owed wages.