Some Uber Technologies Inc. drivers, unhappy with the company’s $100 million offer to settle claims that it exploits them, are trying to get their lawyer removed with help from a competing attorney as a judge weighs the deal.
By not providing California and Massachusetts drivers the employee status they sought and paying them less than 10 percent of the value of their claims, the class-action settlement announced last month amounts to a sell-out by their attorney, Shannon Liss-Riordan, according to Hunter Shkolnik, a New York lawyer who’s pursuing his own cases against the ride-share service. Liss-Riordan’s firm, which stands to get as much as $25 million from the deal, was motivated by greed, Shkolnik and other lawyers said Thursday in a court filing.
“She has single-handedly stuck a knife in the back of every Uber driver in the country” Shkolnik said Friday in a phone interview. “The entire class was thrown under the bus and backed over.”
Liss-Riordan said she did the best she could in a hard-fought and risky case to get a fair settlement for the drivers, which she said by some measurements amounts to almost a third of the damages they could have won if the case had gone to trial.
“It is easy for others to come in and second guess, but cases are settled all the time, and it is the lawyer’s duty to assess and balance the risks and make recommendations,” she said in an e-mailed statement.
She said criticisms from other lawyers about the settlement are “uninformed and their actions in circulating untrue and malicious allegations about me is crossing the line.”
With a valuation of $62.5 billion, Uber is the biggest firm in the sharing economy where a fight has been brewing over how companies classify workers. The settlement could guide other companies in the sharing economy trying to address worker unrest.
A federal judge in San Francisco has set a June 2 hearing on whether to give preliminary approval to the settlement.
Under the proposed agreement, which covers about 385,000 drivers, Uber will initially pay $84 million, with another $16 million contingent on the ride-share service going public and its valuation continuing to grow. A quarter of the payout is designated for attorney fees.
Payments to drivers will be made on a sliding scale proportionate to the miles they’ve driven. Those who have logged at least 25,000 miles for Uber may receive individual payments of more than $8,000, significantly more than those who have driven fewer miles.
The settlement also allows drivers to post signs in their cars saying that tips are not included in the passenger fare and would be appreciated, though they aren’t required. Drivers alleged in the suit that Uber led customers to believe that gratuities were part of the fare.
The accord also prohibits Uber from firing drivers without a reason, sets up a two-step process for terminated drivers to appeal their dismissals through peer review and arbitration and recognizes a drivers’ association.
The case is O’Connor v. Uber Technologies Inc., 13-cv-03826, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
©2016 Bloomberg L.P.
This article was written by Rebecca Spalding from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.