Dubal Open Letter Calls for Changes to Unemployment

UC Law SF Associate Professor Veena Dubal, alongside more than 25 professors from across the country, have signed an open letter to state unemployment insurance agencies, offering expertise on how best to proceed with unemployment claims filed by Uber and Lyft drivers.

“This letter, signed by academics and researchers with particular expertise on misclassification in the ride-hailing app industry, directs state unemployment insurance agencies on how best to proceed with the claims of Uber and Lyft drivers,” Dubal said. Her primary co-author is Charlotte Garden, Associate Professor of Law at Seattle University. UC Law SF Associate Clinical Professor Mai Linh Spencer is also a signatory. The letter can be read in full here.

“We show how as a matter of law, under both the right to control test and ABC test that drivers are unequivocally employees for purposes of state unemployment insurance laws.” Dubal’s work focuses on the impact of digital technologies and emerging legal frameworks on the lives of workers.

The academic letter argues that states should determine weekly unemployment insurance payments based on income data provided by Uber and Lyft, and that in the absence of that data, state agencies should establish the claimant’s benefit rights based on the claimant’s own statements of wages.

The academics, who include labor law professors, labor economists, and sociologists from across the country, urge the agencies to subsequently “take enforcement measures against the companies that have shirked their reporting and contribution obligations under the law.”

The letter was released April 8, along with a letter to Congressional leaders from more than 50 labor groups, calling on them to take action on Uber’s misclassification of workers, who are on the front lines as transportation service providers during the pandemic.

The letter asks Congress to reject Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi’s proposal for a new legal category that would allow the company to keep treating its workers as independent contractors while affording them partial employee benefits. You can read coverage about the campaign here.