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Court: Boston cab drivers not employees owed minimum wages and worker's comp

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.

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Another plaintiff testified that he used leased taxicabs to attend classes and drive to volunteer jobs.

That has to be about the worst possible way of getting some wheels.

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I would think a straight up car rental would be cheaper.

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Probably a weekly lease - most drivers either own or lease by the shift, but in Boston it's not uncommon to just lease the medallion and/or cab full-time and work out how/if to split shifts yourself.

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I know someone who pays $50+ a week for Ubers to work when they're probably pulling in $300 a week. And they live somewhere (San Diego) that's bikeable (at least in terms of weather), and has a city bus within a block of home and work.

Hell, some people even live outside of the city and spend hours commuting into it each day.

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i know people here in boston who do that and they live and work near a T station!

Some people will not ride public transit period.

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A large number of people have zero savings. That plus starbucks.

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the state law that defines "employees" explicitly excludes cab drivers.

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What ever happened to equal protection under law? Why are discriminatory carve outs allowed and not blatantly unconstitutional?

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Whatever happened to equal protection? Now its "whoever has the most money gets to write the law." The owners have more than the drivers. Uber has more than either. The coal and oil industry has more than environmentalists and those that live near places like the Gulf of Mexico or fracking sites.

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