Uber offers drivers quasi employee perk: access to retirement accounts

Uber hasn’t budged on its stance that drivers are not employees. But the ride-hailing giant is offering drivers a new, almost-employee perk — access to retirement savings accounts.

San Francisco-based Uber on Wednesday said drivers in a handful of cities can use the app to open IRAs with no minimum account balance. The accounts will operate through an Uber partnership with investment service Betterment, and drivers will pay no fees for the first year.

“With Uber, you can push a button and get work,” the company wrote in a blog post. “And now, drivers can use the same innovative app that gives them complete control over their time and schedule to have the opportunity to take control of their financial future as well.”

The service is rolling out first in Seattle, Boston, Chicago and New Jersey, and Uber has plans to expand the offering nationwide.

The announcement comes in the midst of what has become a long, ugly battle over Uber’s right to classify its drivers as independent contractors — a category of worker that generally works on a flexible schedule but forgoes employee benefits such as overtime pay, minimum wage, reimbursement for work expenses, medical insurance and a 401K. Uber had tried to end litigation over its driver classification with a $84 million settlement (which would balloon to $100 million if Uber has a successful IPO) in April, but earlier this month a judge rejected that deal, drawing out the legal battle. Experts say the issue, which affects every company in the booming on-demand industry that follows Uber’s business model, eventually may need to be resolved by the Supreme Court or the legislature.

In the meantime, Uber has been offering drivers not-quite employee perks. In New York City, Uber started the Independent Drivers Guild, a quasi-union for non-employee drivers who technically are not allowed to unionize.

Photo: A  woman leaves the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco in 2014. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)




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