Skip to main content

Postmates couriers are eligible for unemployment benefits, rules New York appeals court

Postmates couriers are eligible for unemployment benefits, rules New York appeals court

/

The court reinstated a 2015 decision

Share this story

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Image: Postmates

New York’s Court of Appeals has reinstated a 2015 decision determining that couriers for on-demand delivery app Postmates should be classified as employees, making them eligible for unemployment insurance at a time when the US is seeing record job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2015 decision by the state’s Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board originally found that a terminated Postmates courier, Luis Vega, should be classified as an employee and therefore eligible for unemployment benefits when he was kicked off the platform. That decision also required the company to pay into New York’s Unemployment Insurance Fund for that employee and for “all other persons similarly employed.”

The ruling could be significant for Postmates couriers, as shelter-in-place restrictions or the need to self-quarantine has led to mass layoffs and significantly reduced on-demand work. For those still able to work for on-demand delivery apps like Postmates, there is a risk of getting infected. Typically, gig workers are classified as independent contractors, which means they are ineligible for unemployment benefits or healthcare.

Postmates has tried to address this by launching a fund that couriers can take advantage of to pay back medical expenses related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. And DoorDash and Instacart now offer up to 14 days of sick pay if they’re affected by coronavirus. But workers for these companies and others are still especially vulnerable while more and more Americans are relying on their services. For that reason, Instacart shoppers are organizing a work stoppage on Monday to fight for better sick leave and company-provided protective gear such as hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

“Postmates exercised control over its couriers sufficient to render them employees”

In yesterday’s ruling, a majority of the judges supported the original decision’s determination that “Postmates exercised control over its couriers sufficient to render them employees rather than independent contractors operating their own businesses.” If those workers were classified as independent contractors, Postmates would not be obligated to pay into unemployment insurance for them.

“Today’s decision is a huge victory for thousands of gig workers across New York,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James in a statement. “The courts have solidified what we all have known for a while — delivery drivers are employees and are entitled to the same unemployment benefits other employees can obtain.”

“While we do not agree with the majority opinion from the New York Court of Appeals in the matter of Vega v. Postmates, the court’s conclusions support a position for which Postmates has long advocated: we need a modern worker classification framework that is relevant to the autonomy and flexibility made possible by app-enabled work,” Postmates said in a statement provided to The Verge.

“We fully support designing a responsible framework that allows New Yorkers to choose if, when, where, and for how long they work, while also providing them access to the benefits and services they deserve. As stated in the dissenting opinion, ‘Our current framework, as inconsistently applied, fails to provide clarity to anyone involved.’ We want to work with New York to change that.” 

In addition to its medical fund, Postmates has also followed other on-demand delivery apps in introducing “non-contact” meal deliveries to help encourage social distancing, which can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

You can read yesterday’s full decision here:

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 48 minutes ago Striking out

A
Andrew Webster48 minutes ago
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


A
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.


J
External Link
Jay PetersSep 23
Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.


E
External Link
Insiders made the most money off of Helium’s “People’s Network.”

Remember Helium, which was touted by The New York Times in an article entitled “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All?” Not only was the company misleading people about who used it — Salesforce and Lime weren’t using it, despite what Helium said on its site — Helium disproportionately enriched insiders, Forbes reports.


J
Youtube
James VincentSep 23
Nvidia’s latest AI model generates endless 3D models.

Need to fill your video game, VR world, or project render with 3D chaff? Nvidia’s latest AI model could help. Trained on 2D images, it can churn out customizable 3D objects ready to import and tweak.

The model seems rudimentary (the renders aren’t amazing quality and seem limited in their variety), but generative AI models like this are only going to improve, speeding up work for all sorts of creative types.


J
External Link
Jess WeatherbedSep 23
Japan will fully reopen to tourists in October following two and a half years of travel restrictions.

Good news for folks who have been waiting to book their dream Tokyo vacation: Japan will finally relax Covid border control measures for visa-free travel and individual travelers on October 11th.

Tourists will still need to be vaccinated three times or submit a negative COVID-19 test result ahead of their trip, but can take advantage of the weak yen and a ‘national travel discount’ launching on the same date. Sugoi!


T
External Link
Thomas RickerSep 23
Sony starts selling the Xperia 1 IV with continuous zoom lens.

What does it cost to buy a smartphone that does something no smartphone from Apple, Google, Samsung can? $1,599.99 is Sony’s answer: for a camera lens that can shift its focal length anywhere between 85mm and 125mm.

Here’s Allison’s take on Sony’s continuous-zoom lens when she tested a prototype Xperia 1 IV back in May: 

Sony put a good point-and-shoot zoom in a smartphone. That’s an impressive feat. In practical use, it’s a bit less impressive. It’s essentially two lenses that serve the same function: portrait photography. The fact that there’s optical zoom connecting them doesn’t make them much more versatile.

Still, it is a Sony, and like.no.other.