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Uber, Lyft drivers seek state sick time protections as Covid-19 concern spreads

A traveler uses a smartphone in front of a vehicle displaying Uber Technologies Inc. signage at the Oakland International Airport.
A traveler uses a smartphone in front of a vehicle displaying Uber Technologies Inc. signage at the Oakland International Airport.David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Drivers who are suing Uber and Lyft in Massachusetts and California over their status as independent contractors are asking the courts to issue immediate injunctions ordering the ride-share companies to classify them as employees and offer paid sick leave mandated by state law as concern over Covid-19 grows.

Without sick time, drivers could continue to work even if they’re feeling ill, potentially spreading Covid-19 to their passengers, said Shannon Liss-Riordan, the Boston lawyer representing the drivers in both states. (Complaints were filed in California on Wednesday and will be filed in Massachusetts Thursday).

Massachusetts law requires employers with 11 or more workers to offer up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.

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Uber and Lyft have said they will compensate drivers diagnosed with the coronavirus or affected by quarantines — Uber is offering up to 14 days of paid sick time — but those who aren’t officially diagnosed or directed to stay home have no protections. Without compensation, drivers may choose to work while they’re sick in order to pay their bills, Liss-Riordan said.

"Uber and Lyft's policies do not address the crisis we are facing," she wrote in an email. "It is very unfortunate that such a crisis may be necessary to prompt these companies into actually complying with the law and extending employment protections to their drivers."

Uber and Lyft did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


Katie Johnston can be reached at katie.johnston@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.