House Committee on Urban Affairs Considers Proposed Bill Which Would Give Cab Drivers Workers’ Compensation Protections

Cab drivers throughout the United States have long faced a problem when it comes to getting injured or worse, while on the job; they are generally not afforded workers’ compensation benefits as they are deemed independent contractors. A proposed Bill, under consideration by the State House Committee on Urban Affairs, may make Philadelphia one of the few cities in the United States to mandate workers’ compensation benefits for cab drivers. The proposed Bill would also require the creation of at least fifty wheel-chair accessible cabs, catering to those who are disabled.

Driving a cab is statistically one of the most dangerous jobs in today’s society, safer than only commercial fishing, logging, farming, and working on structural iron and steel. Drivers face not only the risks of driving on highways and congested city streets, but violent crime as well. Some statistics show that cab drivers are sixty-times more likely to be killed and eighty-times more likely to be assaulted while on the job, more so than the average person. Yet, as independent contractors, drivers and their families are not entitled to any benefits despite the dangerous nature of the position.

The difference between an “employee” and an “independent contractor” is not always as easy as making a characterization. Both are legal terms involving numerous technicalities, including but not limited to the amount of control an employer has over the employee/ independent contractor’s actions. The difference in how both are treated under the law is just as complicated. For example, employers are not required to withhold taxes from independent contractors; rather the independent contractor is responsible for his or her own withholdings. Further, independent contractors are not entitled to the same employer/ employee benefits as an employee, specifically workers’ compensation benefits.

In Philadelphia, cab drivers must obtain medallions, or licenses to operate cabs. Drivers purchase their own vehicles and lease their medallions from the medallion owner. Cab drivers are also associated with dispatch services who radio pick-up and other information to the drivers while they are on the road. Do to the fact that cab drivers own and operate their own vehicles, making lease payments to the medallion owners and/or periodic payments for the use of their dispatch service, cab drivers have long been deemed independent contractors; thereby not entitling them to workers’ compensation benefits despite the dangerous nature of their profession.

In San Francisco, a union was established for cab drivers, who successfully lobbied for cab drivers to be deemed employees. In response, cab companies began making drivers sign contracts, specifying they were independent contractors. New York City is one of the few cities who already mandate that despite their status as independent contractors, medallion owners are responsible for providing workers’ compensation benefits. If passed, House Bill 1914 would do the same here.

It is extremely important that you know your rights when it comes to workers’ compensation. As demonstrated by the cab industry, employers sometimes do not have the best interest of their workers in mind. If you have questions about your rights as a worker, or if you have been injured while on the job, please contact the attorneys at www.workerscomp-pa.com for a confidential consultation.

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