An employee dispute seeks to answer whether partner dispensaries or the delivery company itself should be responsible for conditions on the job.
[dropcap]E[/dropcap]aze Solutions, the cannabis-delivery-enabling software platform often referred to by the tech press and its founder as the “Uber of marijuana,” is dealing with a very Uber-like issue: A former driver has filed a labor lawsuit against the company, claiming that Eaze should have granted him full employee status. The lawsuit comes down to whether the employee was working directly for Eaze, or as the company believes, as an employee of one of its partner dispensaries.
Dakota Quigley, a 23-year-old who drove under the brand two years ago, filed the lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court in May 2016.
The lawsuit resembles the action filed against Uber by some of its drivers in several ways. First, both lawsuits cite similar statutes of California labor law. In both cases, the drivers claim that the software platform — Uber and Eaze, respectively — have dominion over the drivers’ working conditions and schedules, which qualifies them as employers under California labor law.
Second, the same attorney, labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, represents the plaintiffs in both cases. (Her class-action case, one of many filed against Uber, is currently on appeal; a decision could be issued sometime this winter.)
According to court filings, Eaze and Quigley are currently in settlement talks. A spokeswoman for the company did not return multiple emails seeking comment on the lawsuit. Neither Liss-Riordan nor co-counsel Matthew Carlson responded to phone messages and emails requesting comment.
The lawsuit states that Quigley began driving on the Eaze platform in November 2015. Quigley claims he was promised $150 for each day driving in San Francisco, and $100 for each day driving in San Jose. These promises weren’t kept, he says, leading to a breach-of-contract allegation. He says the promises were made to him by a recruiter working for Eaze.
According to the suit, Eaze qualifies as drivers’ employer under California law because it is the company that “regulat[es] significant aspects of… drivers’ work… to the extent that Eaze is properly considered Eaze drivers’ employer.” These includes its “right to control the hiring process for all Eaze drivers,”; maintaining “the right to terminate, or ‘deactivate,’ drivers’ Eaze accounts at will”; and drivers planning their shifts using an Eaze website, according to the lawsuit.
Another former driver, Kosta Martikas, who claims to have been “an Eaze driver” in San Diego from September to December 2016, also claims that Eaze, and not the dispensary it claimed to partner with, controlled the functions of his job, from performing orientation to inspecting his vehicle to interacting with him via emails and paperwork.
“Eaze personnel were regularly involved in my work” and “regularly” present at the partner dispensary, Martikas claims in a sworn statement.
In its response, Eaze denies the claims and maintains that if the drivers were employed by anyone, it was with the dispensaries that licensed its software. As per the suit, Quigley performed deliveries with an Eaze dispensary partner called Santa Cruz Mountain Farms. If anyone is his employer, it would be the dispensary, Eaze states.
A deposition taken in October 2016 states, at that time, Eaze had partnered with roughly seven dispensaries.
At the time of the deposition, at least some of the drivers fulfilling orders through the company were classified as independent contractors.
At least one driver who worked for Eaze during the company’s first years later sued and received $5,300 after alleging he was stiffed for three days’ work, and failed to receive payment from a third-party limo service.
That practice, at least, will become unlawful in California on Jan. 1, when all cannabis delivery drivers are required to be dispensary employees, per the state’s new regulations. Drivers will also be subject to vehicle inspections from the state Bureau of Cannabis Control, and will be limited to carrying no more than $3,000 worth of marijuana in their vehicles at any time. These days, Eaze appears careful to note that drivers work for its dispensary partners, and not for the company itself (though potential drivers still sign up via the Eaze website).
What is it like to drive on Eaze-induced deliveries? Answers vary. A peek at reviews on Glassdoor.com reveals some hard times: Long hours past scheduled shift ends with no overtime. Then again, another driver profiled by Business Insider had nothing but nice things to say, calling her Eaze gig “the best job I ever had.”
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