California Can Enforce Minimum Wage Laws

Uber called its recent union deal ‘historic.’ A new complaint alleges it was actually against the law.

A new complaint alleges Uber has been violating California’s wage and hour laws for years.

The complaint, filed this week in a San Francisco state court, alleges Uber’s drivers have only being paid for time worked and not for the miles they drove in addition to their wages, and that this violates state law.

Uber says drivers are paid for the miles they drove and that the company’s policy of paying drivers for the amount of hours they worked was announced in 2016, before the company began paying drivers a minimum wage.

The state of California can impose certain regulatory requirements, such as setting minimum wages and standards for hours worked, when it enacts and enforces a law: if a municipality enacts a city ordinance like San Francisco (San Francisco Municipal Code), it can enforce the ordinance by imposing a minimum wage like the one Uber is paying.

However, the state has only enforced minimum wage requirements in the short-term: San Francisco did not enforce its minimum wage and overtime laws until 2015 when Mayor London Breed, a Democrat, decided to try to collect a modest tax on ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft. The City Council quickly passed the ordinance, which was signed into law on June 1, 2016.

The question of whether California can enforce minimum wage requirements when the ordinance was enacted is hotly debated, though the California Supreme Court has said it is possible for cities to enforce minimum wage laws with new laws.

The city’s ordinance, which took effect Oct. 1, 2015, requires Lyft drivers to receive the minimum wage and overtime pay under the law. Uber drivers will only be required to receive the minimum wage if they sign the contract of employment and agree to abide by the City’s existing wage laws.

Under the City ordinance, all workers with one classification of employer — not just Uber employees — are required to receive wages equal to or greater than the minimum wage.

However, an Uber spokesperson said drivers with more than one classification of employer would still be able to earn no more than the minimum wage as long as they are not under a written agreement with the service company.

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