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NY state deems 2 ex-Uber drivers employees, not contractors

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Two former Uber drivers are eligible for unemployment benefits after the state labor department determined they were employees, not independent contractors as the company says, an advocacy group announced Thursday.

Former Uber drivers Levon Aleksanian and Jakir Hossain were found to be eligible for unemployment benefits in rulings from the State Department of Labor decided this summer.

An ongoing debate about Uber and other ride-hailing companies such as Lyft, continues: Are their drivers employees or should they be considered as such?

Two Uber drivers have been ruled eligible for unemployment payments as employees instead of independent contractors, marking a big win for workers in the gig economy. This ruling only applies to the two drivers, but now the NYTWA is seeking a "comprehensive audit" of Uber. Desai said the alliance brought the suit after numerous drivers had come to her complaining that the state had not responded to unemployment claims in a timely manner.

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Bhairavi Desai with the Taxi Workers Alliance said it's the first time Uber drivers in NY have been recognized as employees.

"Unless Uber can show that other drivers were treated differently, which is highly unlikely, the New York State Board will have to issue the same ruling for all other drivers", Melnik said. "Confidentiality provisions prohibit us from commenting on the specific circumstances of individual cases". "Drivers use Uber on their own terms; they control their use of the app along with where and when they drive". "As employees, drivers would lose the personal flexibility they value most - they would have set shifts, a fixed hourly wage, and be unable to use other ridesharing apps".

"I had to depend on my 75-year-old father to support me", he said.

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