This has great significance to TNCs and their drivers, because a number of state and local employment laws in Florida apply only to employees, and not to independent contractors, including the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 and Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law. The new statute will establish a legal framework for TNCs in Florida and preempt the regulation of TNCs by local governments.
New Florida Statues regarding “Ride-Sharing Companies”, also known as “transportation network companies” (TNCs). More commonly known by their trade names as Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, as well as smaller companies that have started up across the state.
The new rules, which go went into effect January 1st, 2017, create protections for TNCs in Florida, as long as they meet certain criteria. These protections allow TNCs to classify their employees as “independent contractors” if they meet all of the following four criteria:
- Ride-sharing companies or TNCs cannot mandate specific hours in which drivers must be on-call or logged into the TNC network.
- Ride-sharing companies or TNCs cannot require non-compete agreements or otherwise hinder a driver from working with different TNCs.
- Ride-sharing companies or TNCs cannot restrict or hinder the ability for drivers to engage in other occupations or business, regardless of whether it is part of the transportation industry or not; and
- Ride-sharing companies or TNCs and the driver must agree, in writing, that the driver is an independent contractor of the TNC.
If a driver meets all of the above criteria to be classified as an independent contractor, than all Florida law will treat them in that respect, this includes the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 and Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law. This new legislation supersedes all local laws and regulations and past Florida Statutes regarding independent contractors. It does not, however, supersede any federal laws or past federal court decisions regarding employment status.
Due to the Supremacy Clause of the us Constitution, rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), and the employment tax provisions of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) will remain unaffected. In fact, the new state law may create a situation where a TNC driver may be classified as an “independent contractor” under state law, but would still be classified as an employee under federal law.
Florida Statute 627.748 also includes new requirements for disclosure of fares, background checks and substance abuse screenings for new drivers. It will also require minimum insurance coverage for operations in the state.
As technology continues to evolve, the ride-sharing companies will be on track to continue to update their policies and procedures. While this state law seems to clarify some of the murky relationships between TNCs and their drivers, it will do so only in state court. Drivers will still likely engage in litigation at the federal level to determine fair practices and compensation. If you believe your rights have been violated under Florida state law or under federal law, you will need an experienced and knowledgeable employment attorney to navigate these new laws and research the current case law. Our attorneys have over 17 years of experience and will offer a FREE CONSULTATION to evaluate your case. Please call (352) 505-8900 to schedule an appointment in our Gainesville Office.