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Lyft agrees to revised US$27m deal in driver lawsuit

[SAN FRANCISCO] Lyft has agreed to pay US$27 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by California drivers who claimed they should be deemed employees instead of independent contractors, after a US judge rejected a previous US$12.25 million deal as too small.

Lyft and larger rival Uber are attempting to resolve lawsuits by drivers who contend they should be classified as employees and therefore entitled to reimbursement for expenses, including gasoline and vehicle maintenance. Drivers currently pay those costs themselves.

A determination that these workers are employees would affect the profits and valuations at so-called on-demand technology companies.

US district judge Vince Chhabria had said the previous Lyft deal "short-changed" drivers because it represented only 9 per cent of the potential value of drivers' reimbursement claims.

In the new deal, attorneys for drivers calculated that Lyft drivers could have recovered US$156 million had they been classified as employees, based on a mileage reimbursement rate set by the US government and data provided by Lyft.

The US$27 million settlement represents about 17 per cent of that amount, which Mr Chhabria cited as a target in rejecting the previous deal.

Uber has agreed to settle a similar lawsuit involving California and Massachusetts drivers. The potential damages in that case was US$852 million, more than the US$732 million in commissions Uber earned in those two states, according to court filings.

The Uber settlement, worth up to US$100 million, is about 12 per cent of the potential damages. A separate US judge is expected to review that deal in June.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney for the drivers, said Lyft drivers who worked a significant amount of time could receive more than US$10,000 under the deal. Drivers would remain independent contractors under the settlement.

"We are proud to have reached this new agreement, which will provide significant payments to Lyft drivers who have put a lot of their time into this company," Ms Liss-Riordan said.

In a statement, Lyft general counsel Kristin Sverchek said the increased payment reflected the company's growth over the past several months. The previous deal had been based on data from earlier last year.

The settlement gives drivers the flexibility "to control when, where and for how long they drive on the platform," Ms Sverchek said.

A hearing on the Lyft deal is scheduled for June.

REUTERS