The New York Court of Appeals recently ruled that Postmates delivery drivers are company employees who may receive unemployment benefits.
What led up to this? In 2015, New York’s Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board found that Luis Vega, a Postmates courier who was removed from the platform, should have been classified as an employee and was therefore eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Then in 2018, a New York state appeals court sided with Postmates and overturned the board’s decision. Now, after the state’s top court reversed the lower court’s decision, Luis Vega and potentially thousands of gig workers in New York are eligible for unemployment benefits.
Postmates and gig companies have long asserted that they are only responsible for operating platforms that connect couriers to customers. The court rejected this argument, finding that “while couriers decide when to log into the Postmates’ app and accept delivery jobs, the company controls the assignment of deliveries by determining which couriers have access to possible delivery jobs.”
In the background of all of this looms the COVID-19 crisis. Companies like Postmates are losing delivery sales and the nation is experiencing record job loss. On Friday, the federal government passed the CARES Act, extending unemployment benefits to independent contractors and gig workers through December 31, 2020.
After the New York Appellate Court’s decision, however, Postmates couriers and similar gig workers in the state will be eligible for unemployment benefits beyond the new year.
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