A lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court says that Chicago taxi drivers should be considered employees of cab companies, entitling them to overtime pay and a minimum wage.
The suit argues that those benefits and others have been unfairly withheld for years, with Chicago cabbies generally working as independent contractors and putting in long shifts with no guarantee of even covering their costs.
“I am now 54 years old. I have no savings and I have had no days off, for all intents and purposes,” said taxi driver Gregory McGee, one of five named plaintiffs in the class action suit. “I’ve probably had no more than 30 full calendar days off when I’ve done nothing cab-related in almost 12 years now. So, something’s broken.”
The case, with claims exceeding $5 million, is the latest to take issue with Chicago’s taxi industry, and comes just days after voters overwhelmingly rejected a referendum to raise fares. Another federal case argues that Chicago cabbies should be guaranteed minimum wage by the city.
The plaintiffs in Wednesday’s lawsuit, all current or former Chicago cab drivers, say they’ve “had to pay for their jobs” by leasing a vehicle from a taxi company and then paying for gas, airport taxes and upkeep. Sometimes, the suit says, “drivers may actually lose money for working a shift.” One of the lawyers involved in the case is part of a similar suit in Massachusetts court arguing that Boston cab drivers should be considered employees.
Four of Chicago’s largest cab companies — Chicago Carriage Cab, Yellow Cab, Flash Cab and Dispatch Taxi Affiliation — were named as defendants Wednesday, along with their owners. Attempts to reach officials at each of the companies for comment were initially unsuccessful.
The lawsuit says that in addition to no overtime pay or minimum wage, drivers working as independent contractors don’t always have coverage for workers’ compensation insurance or protection against discrimination. James B. Zouras, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said taxi drivers would be able to live differently if their case succeeds.
“First of all, they will have lives, as opposed to working 10-, 12-, 14-hour days, seven days a week,” Zouras said during a news conference at City Hall. “They will have better living conditions. They won’t necessarily have to put in that time.”
Though they’re defendants in this civil case, cab companies have also turned to the courts in recent months to challenge how rides are regulated in the city. One lawsuit asks that ride-share companies, such as UberX and Sidecar, be subject to the same regulations as the taxi industry. A group of ride-share drivers filed a motion this week asking for the case to be dismissed.
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