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Cuomo Says State Fast on Cali's Heels With Driver Employment Test

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 | 215 | 0 | 83 min read

With worker misclassification and the gig economy quickly becoming some of the hottest legislative topics around the country, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week that he refuses to be upstaged by California lawmakers who are considering strict new rules.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

"I don't want to lag California in anything, I don't want to lag any other state," Cuomo, a Democrat, told Crain's New York Business on Monday. "I have proposed in the past, and I will propose in the future for workers, and part of that is redefining a worker as an employee as opposed to an independent contractor."

Cuomo's comments come as the California Legislature, now in its final week of the 2019 session, debates bill AB 5. The bill would classify a number of workers including drivers for Uber and Lyft as employees, making them eligible for workers' compensation and other benefits. AB 5 would codify the 2018 state Supreme Court decision in Dynamex by applying the so-called “ABC test” to all labor code disputes. So far, the high court’s decision has been limited to wage claims.

A coalition of labor groups in New York is pushing similar legislation, saying that many drivers now are exploited by the ride-hailing companies, according to news reports.

Cuomo did not say what specific legislation he would support, but seemed to encourage businesses to get ahead of the legislative curve.

"I think we have to look at how we define 'employee' versus 'independent contractor' going forward, and I think, in my opinion — forget the specifics — more people should be considered employees, because what has been happening is companies have been going out of their way to hire independent contractors to get out of those obligations,” Cuomo said.

Uber and Lyft drivers in New York state receive workers' compensation coverage through the Black Car Fund, a quasi-public agency funded through a surcharge on rides. But the drivers do not receive many other benefits and, as contractors, are not protected by minimum-wage and other labor laws.

New York City recently required that ride-hailing drivers be paid at least minimum wage. But the ordinance and the Black Car Fund do not cover other types of independent contractors.

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