Do Legal Issues Outweigh the Perks of Rideshare Driving?

Navigating the road to riches in Florida

At first glance, driving for a rideshare company comes with plenty of perks, like working when you want, for how long you want, with no boss looking over your shoulder. The reality is less rosy.  

First, you’re not an employee of the rideshare company but an independent contractor, and that’s a role that comes with its own set of responsibilities. 

“Approach it as if you’re the owner of a business,” recommends Donna Ballman, an employment & labor attorney at Donna M. Ballman, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale. “Be aware of things like insurance and other issues you may need to examine as a businessperson that you’re used to having an employer taking care of.”

Gary A. Costales, an employment & labor attorney at the Law Offices of Gary A. Costales in Miami, agrees. “You have to have good habits for keeping records,” he says, “because those will carry forward into the future.”

One way to make record-keeping easier? Obtain a credit card, says Costales, and use it solely for your rideshare-related expenses. That way, come tax season, you’ll have less digging to do. 

“You also have to set aside something for the payment of FICA taxes,” he adds. “Even though you’re an independent contractor, you still have to pay FICA and payroll taxes like anybody else. Set that money aside as you go, so you’re not hit with a big tax bill at the end of the year.”

If your new tax situation seems daunting, Ballman suggests hiring an accountant. “There are probably a lot of things that are deductible that you might not think about, so I do recommend getting some tax advice,” she says.

Perhaps the most important aspect of being an independent contractor is recognizing what laws apply to you. “Independent contractors need to be more aware of what rights they do and don’t have,” says Ballman. “So things like Title VII, the Florida Civil Rights Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act—those things don’t apply to them. Sometimes contractors think they have rights that they don’t.”

While discrimination laws, workers’ compensation laws, unemployment laws and wage-hour laws don’t apply to rideshare drivers, contract law absolutely does. 

“Their situation is governed by whatever contract they signed with their rideshare company,” says Ballman, who recommends having an employment attorney review your driver contract if anything is unclear. “The rideshare contract may give you some rights—as far as under what basis they can terminate your contract, and what rights you have if they do. … You need to have a copy of that contract, and understand what your rights are—especially if they do decide to try and terminate you.”

While Florida drivers may be disheartened by the November 2020 news that California voters confirmed, through proposition, that Golden State rideshare drivers are not employees, their status—on a national level—may still be up in the air.

“We’ve got a new administration,” says Ballman, “and they’re making a lot of changes to employment law. The U.S. Department of Labor had issued a guidance saying that gig workers are considered to be contractors on a national level. Is that going to change? Very possibly. We are, right now, in a period where we don’t know what’s going to happen. But I believe we’re going to see some changes that are more pro-employee in this administration.”

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