Offended by companies that don’t pay their workers a living wage? Maybe you shouldn’t take an Uber home from the bars tonight, then.
Michael Hood has been driving for Uber in Forsyth County since September 2015. According to a recently filed class action lawsuit in the Middle District of North Carolina, he drives, on average, fifty hours a week, and often over sixty hours a week. All those hours—Hood must really be stackin’ that cheddar, huh?
Nope. Factoring in Uber’s cut of every ride (it takes 20 percent) and his weekly expenses, which average around $200 (gas, repairs, lease payments, insurance), Hood makes less than North Carolina minimum wage. Here are a few sample weeks of how his compensation breaks out, according to the suit.
Week of April 25, 2016:
Hours worked: 65.44
Total compensation: $513.14
Hourly wage: $4.78/hour
Week of December 28, 2015:
Hours worked: 79.62
Total compensation: $721.67
Hourly wage: $6.55/hour
Week of December 14, 2015:
Hours worked: 56.84
Total compensation: $311.07
Holy shit: $1.95/hour
Hood, according to the suit, makes an average of $6 an hour as an Uber driver. Uber, of course, is not technically violating minimum wage laws because Hood, and every other driver for the company, is an independent contractor.
The suit notes that, although there are no available numbers on how much Uber saves by not reimbursing drivers’ on-the-job expenses in North Carolina, the company has saved as much as $730 million
since 2009 by not reimbursing those expenses in California and Massachusetts.
Hood’s suit also alleges that Uber misrepresents to both the public and to its drivers how drivers are compensated so that it can keep more of the profits. “Uber markets its rides as gratuity-included, but Uber does not remit the gratuity (or an amount in-kind) to Uber drivers,” the suit reads. “Uber effectively takes the tips.”
Uber, a company recently valued at $68 billion, has long argued that it is a partner, not an employer, of its drivers. Hood’s suit lays out an exhaustive argument for why this claim is misleading. A brief snippet: “Uber exercises near total control over the means and method of his work. For example, Uber controls the terms and conditions of employment from what to wear to what route to take, to setting customer fares and Uber’s fee. Uber has the authority to hire, fire, and discipline Uber drivers.”
Hood is seeking compensatory damages and an injunction against Uber that would prohibit the company from continuing these practices: “[Hood] and the class he seeks to represent are owed fundamental wage protections that federal law and North Carolina wage and hour laws afford other North Carolina employees.”
Hood’s attorney declined to comment. Uber has not responded to a request for comment.
Uber has been a frequent legal target, with fifty claims filed last year alone
. Many of these argue that Uber misclassifies its drivers as independent contractors, when in reality they are employees. Earlier this year, Uber agreed to pay $100 million to drivers in California and Massachusetts—while specifying that drivers were independent contractors—but in April a federal judge rejected that settlement as inadequate
Here is Hood’s complaint, which appears to be the only lawsuit of its kind filed against Uber in North Carolina: