Uber to Pay $1.3M in Back Wages to Over 2,300 Seattle-Area Workers

Uber agreed to pay nearly $1.3 million in back wages as well as interest, damages and civil penalties to 2,329 of its drivers in the Seattle area as part of a settlement, the Associated Press reported.

The ride-hailing company is to pay a total of $3.4 million to around 15,000 drivers after violating Seattle's paid sick leave law. Uber was investigated by Seattle's Office of Labor Standards when drivers raised concerns over not benefiting from the law.

The company found technical glitches on its app prevented some Seattle drivers from accessing their paid-time-off accounts. In some cases, time-off requests were canceled among other glitches.

"While the vast majority of workers claimed their Paid Sick and Safe Time without an issue, we're grateful that the Office of Labor Standards worked in partnership with us as we improved our systems to ensure accurate and prompt payments," said Uber's public affairs manager Harry Hartfield in a news release.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Uber App On a Phone
A picture taken on October 1, 2019 shows the logo of Uber app displayed on a tablet screen, in Lille, northern France. Uber agreed to pay a total of $3.4 million to its drivers in the Seattle-area as part of a settlement. Denis Charlet/AFP via Getty Images

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Seattle City Council last year temporarily extended sick and safe leave protections to gig workers, who previously didn't qualify because many companies treat them as independent contractors.

The law allows the workers to accrue and take paid days off — based on their average daily compensation, including tips — to care for themselves or family members who get sick. The idea was to reduce the financial pressure on them to keep working, possibly spreading the virus, at a time when people were becoming more reliant on gig workers to perform tasks like grocery delivery.

It also allows them to take paid time off for other reasons, such as to seek help in domestic violence cases or to care for children whose schools were closed because of the pandemic.

The office said in a news release Thursday that Uber conducted several audits after the investigation began. The company also discovered some drivers had incorrect time-off balances in their accounts and some had been required to wait until the day after their time-off request to take it.

The company voluntarily fixed those issues, the office said.

The settlement includes nearly $2.2 million in advance payment of unused paid time off to 15,084 workers.

"Having access to paid sick days during this pandemic means we can keep our customers and our families safe and healthy," one of the drivers, Jamel Jara, said in the news release.

Hartfield said in the news release that the company worked over a few weeks to build a new payment system to comply with the new law.

The paid sick leave protections for gig workers expire 180 days after the end of the civil emergency declared by public officials in response to the pandemic.