Class-action lawsuit seeks back pay for cabdrivers

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Chicago taxicab companies are “misclassifying” their drivers as independent contractors and should consider them employees eligible for overtime and the state’s $8.25-an-hour minimum wage, a federal class-action lawsuit claimed Wednesday. 

Two years after a group known as “Cabdrivers for Justice” filed a similar lawsuit against the city, another group of cabbies took aim at four of Chicago’s largest cab companies and their owners: Chicago Carriage Cab, Yellow Cab Affiliation, Flash Cab and Dispatch Taxi Affiliation.

“Defendants have violated the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act…by misclassifying their taxi drivers as independent contractors, requiring them to pay fees in order to perform their jobs, failing to reimburse them for expenses necessary to perform their jobs, taking deductions from their pay and failing to pay them wages including minimum wages, overtime wages or any wages,” the lawsuit states.

“Defendants have also shifted these work-related expenses to the drivers, as well as avoided paying other employment-related obligations such as Social Security contributions, workers’ compensation coverage, state disability and unemployment compensation. Through this misclassification, defendants have been unjustly enriched.”

The class-action lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment that drivers are employees — not independent contractors.

It also seeks millions of dollars in damages and back pay for “all persons who have worked as taxi drivers in Chicago over the last ten years” while paying the companies to lease their vehicles for $90-a-day and $500-a-week.

Cabdriver Peter Enger, one of five named plaintiffs, said cabbies are “the most dependent workers you can possibly imagine and over-regulated” by the city.

“We have to pay money upfront and we have no guarantee that we’re gonna get that money back,” Enger said Wednesday.

“Yesterday and today, I worked for less than the money I was paying for my lease. I worked for negative $2-per-hour yesterday. I worked for eight hours and the lease-plus-gas is $115.”

Pressed on what he is seeking, Enger said, “I want back-pay for wage theft. I’ve been working for less than the minimum wage ever since I came into this industry. I’m doing all the work and the people making the money are collecting it from me. They need to pay me for the money I’ve already worked for.”

Cabbies are not the only ones seeking redress in federal court. Cab companies have filed their own lawsuit seeking to stop, what they call unfair competition from unregulated ride-sharing companies.

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