The Supreme Judicial Court today ruled today that Boston cabbies who "lease" cabs for daily shifts are independent contractors and so owed nothing under the state's minimum-wage and unemployment laws.
The state's highest court noted that the state law that defines "employees" explicitly excludes cab drivers.
The judges also rejected the cabbies' assertion that collectively the medallion and radio-assocation owners were "a singular employer exercising monolithic control over the taxicab industry."
A key part of the ruling considered whether the medallion owners required the cabbies to perform specific functions - as a boss might do with an employer. The court concluded they don't:
Drivers receive minimal direction from medallion owners or radio associations. The drivers choose the shifts they work and are free to transport as many or as few passengers as they wish during those shifts. Although Rule 403 [the city rule regulating medallion cabs] allows a radio association to discontinue its services to a driver if the driver accepts dispatches and fails to complete them, the driver remains free to operate his or her business of picking up passengers in exchange for fares and tips. The driver is also free to lease from a different medallion owner, who, in turn, may provide the driver with access to a different radio association. Drivers may decline to accept dispatches altogether and, indeed, one of the plaintiffs in this case testified that he has never logged in to receive dispatches from a radio association. Another plaintiff testified that he used leased taxicabs to attend classes and drive to volunteer jobs.
The court continued that medallion owners and radio associations did nothing to force drivers to maximize their income, relying instead on a flat per-shift fee:
The medallion owners are not concerned with the results of the plaintiffs' operations, as drivers are not required to remit a percentage of their revenues, which include both fares and tips.