Hephzibah Dollar started driving with Uber to make a living and find a home for her two boys.
She didn’t have a place to live at the time. So she put her possessions in storage, leased an SUV from Uber, then drove it all day long until she had to pick up her boys.
All three of them slept in the back of the SUV at night.
Dollar had the idea she would be making $800 to $900 a week, but then her paychecks came in.
Pennies, she told Business Insider.
“What’s the point of depositing one cent? Was that a joke?” Dollar said.
“I should have been bringing home $400 to $450. They were taking out the payments, riders’ fees, insurance fees. They had all these excess fees they were pulling out,” she continued.
The Los Angeles-based Dollar filed a complaint with the California Labour Commissioner’s Office in April 2015 for commissions earned during her six months of driving. Combined with unauthorised deductions and reimbursable expenses, Dollar claimed Uber owed her $15,018.30 for her time driving.
“I didn’t sign a contract saying they could keep my check,” Dollar said.
On December 29, Uber decided to settle and pay Dollar the full $15,018.30.
“While we disagreed with these claims, we have decided to focus our resources on the bigger picture, including the O’Connor case,” an Uber spokesperson wrote. A settlement does not admit fault, and Dollar is not considered an employee of Uber as a result.
The company has been facing backlash from some drivers who have taken to filing with the Labour Commissioner’s Office or joining class action lawsuits. At the heart of all of them, Dollar and other drivers believe they are employees, not independent contractors, as Uber claims.
The reason? Control.
“I was treated like an employee”
Dollar started driving in October 2014. Within the first 30 days, Uber kicked her off its app, saying that a rider had complained. She was kicked off again several times, and Uber finally told her she could pay $50 to take a class to be reinstated.
She calls it a “rip-off,” as Uber has taken billions from investors, but they made her pay for the class.
As an independent contractor, Dollar said she believes she had the right to keep working, not to be told that she couldn’t. “I’m not going to stop myself from making money. I was treated like an employee,” Dollar said.
Over the course of her employment, Dollar tracked every ride, writing down the person’s name and how much she had made. In April, Dollar filed a complaint with the labour commissioner’s office, which settles employment disputes in California.
Business Insider first reached out to Dollar in June after Uber appealed a labour commission ruling in a different case. She didn’t have a computer then and was living on the go. Uber failed to show up at the first hearing in July, Dollar told us.
It wasn’t until Christmas that she got the call. Uber wanted to settle, and she needed to decide fast. Dollar agreed to the $15,000 on December 29.
By then, she had fallen behind on the payments for the car she had leased from Uber.
The company had advertised leases for $150, she said, but her SUV came close to $300 a week. With Uber turning on and off her app access, she didn’t have enough money. Uber took the car, but she credits her pastor and Upland Police Chief Brian Johnson for finding her and her two boys a shelter in November. Dollar says Johnson put her family up in a hotel for a week until they found a shelter that would accept her and her two teenage sons.
Despite her troubles, Dollar doesn’t have anything negative to say about Uber, other than that it shouldn’t take away a person’s livelihood to pay for the car they’re using.
“It’s a good company, and people aren’t going to stop using it because it’s cheaper than cabs,” Dollar said.
She now wants to go work for Lyft, which gives drivers tips they earn on the trips.
“I see most of the drivers that’s making money with Uber and Lyft they have their own vehicles,” Dollar said. Now she’s saving up to buy one of her own.