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Aleksanian v. Cuomo

United States District Court, E.D. New York

July 6, 2017

LEVON ALEKSANIAN, JAKIR HOSSAIN, and NEW YORK TAXI WORKERS ALLIANCE, Plaintiffs,
v.
ANDREW CUOMO, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, and ROBERTA REARDON, as COMMISSIONER OF LABOR, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          I. Leo Glasser Judge.

         Plaintiffs Levon Aleksanian, Jakir Hossain and the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (“NYTWA, ” together, the “Plaintiffs”), bring claims against New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York State Department of Labor (“DOL”), and Roberta Reardon as New York State Commissioner of Labor (together, the “Defendants”). Plaintiffs seek declaratory relief from Defendants' alleged violations of Title III of the Social Security Act of 1935, 42 U.S.C. §§ 501-504 and 20 C.F.R. § 640.3(a), and the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the United States Constitution. Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint, which for the reasons indicated herein, is GRANTED. Plaintiffs have also moved for an extension of time to serve Defendant Cuomo. That motion is DENIED as both futile and moot.

         BACKGROUND

         Overview and Legal Framework

         Plaintiffs Aleksanian and Hossain (the “Individual Plaintiffs”), are both former drivers for Uber Technologies Inc. (“Uber”) in New York City who purport to bring this case on behalf of themselves and other former Uber drivers. ECF 1, Complaint (“Complt.”), at ¶¶ 1, 24. They are both members of the NYTWA, a non-profit membership organization with 19, 000 members, including 5, 000 Uber drivers, that “works to ensure the fair treatment of its member drivers and to promote the dignity of all workers in the taxi, limousine, and black car industries in New York.” Id. at ¶¶ 10, 75-76.

         Plaintiffs invoke Title III of the Social Security Act of 1935, pursuant to which the federal government provides payments to the states to finance the administration of their unemployment compensation laws. 42 U.S.C. §§ 501-504. In what is commonly referred to as the “when due” clause, that law requires that states receiving funding enact laws providing for

such methods of administration . . . as are found . . . to be reasonably calculated to insure full payment of unemployment compensation when due . . .

42 U.S.C. § 503(a)(1); see also 20 C.F.R. § 640.3(a) (state laws must provide for “such methods of administration as will reasonably insure the full payment of unemployment benefits to eligible claimant with the greatest promptness that is administratively feasible”).

         In New York, the DOL relies on the wages reported to the State by employers to make an initial determination of whether a claimant is monetarily eligible for unemployment insurance. Complt. at ¶¶ 2, 19. Claimants must earn a statutory minimum threshold in wages during their previous employment to be monetarily eligible. Id. at ¶ 17. A claimant who believes his wages were misclassified or improperly reported as earnings of an independent contractor (earnings which are not monetarily eligible for unemployment insurance) may provide additional documentation to the DOL for reconsideration. Id. at ¶ 19. The DOL investigates that claim to determine whether the income was actually earned as an employee, and issues a revised determination of monetary eligibility. Id. at ¶ 19.[1] The DOL says that it generally takes three to six weeks for a claimant to receive his first payment, but that “Independent contractor/off-the-books payment issues can take more than six weeks to resolve.” Id. at ¶ 22; see also New York State Department of Labor, Unemployment Insurance Handbook, at p. 45. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated the “when due” clause by refusing to adjudicate workers compensation claims filed by the Individual Plaintiffs and other former Uber drivers.

         Plaintiff Aleksanian

         Aleksanian worked as an Uber driver from August 2014 through September 2015. Id. at ¶ 41. On September 9, 2015, his employment with Uber was terminated. Id. at ¶¶ 47-48. Aleksanian applied for unemployment benefits on September 14, 2015. Id. at ¶ 49. Two weeks later, the DOL issued a determination that he had not made sufficient wages to be eligible for unemployment benefits. Id. at ¶ 50. The DOL had not counted the wages he earned from Uber, because Uber considers its drivers to be independent contractors, not employees. Id. at ¶ 27. Aleksanian submitted proof of his Uber earnings to the DOL. Id. at ¶ 50. On February 9, 2016, Aleksanian contacted the DOL to inquire about his claim. The DOL said it was still investigating, and that “[a]ll Uber claims we have are under executive review.” Id at ¶¶ 56-58.

         Plaintiff Hossain

         Hossain worked as an Uber driver from January 2016 to April 2016. Id. at ¶ 63. On April 25, 2016, his employment with Uber was terminated. Id. at ¶ 67. Hossain applied for unemployment compensation on May 2, 2016. Id. at ¶ 68.[2] On May 12, 2016, the DOL issued a determination that he did not make enough wages during the relevant time period to establish entitlement to unemployment benefits. Id. at ¶ 69. As with Aleksanian, the DOL had not considered Hossain's wages from Uber, so he submitted proof of those earnings to the DOL. Id. at ¶¶ 69-70.

         Initiation of this Lawsuit ...


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