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Postmates paid premiums, but cases still rare

Grubhub Inc. is not the only gig economy company to grab headlines when it comes to the employees vs. independent contractors debate.

In 2016, the Washington state Department of Labor & Industries ordered San Francisco-based food delivery service Postmates Inc. to retroactively pay workers compensation premiums for more than 3,000 of its couriers in the state. Postmates considers its workers who deliver food from restaurants and grocery stores independent contractors, but the department determined that the company should pay $323,027 in audited workers comp premiums for those workers.

“Part of the reason we haven’t seen more of this is that there is a good deal of anxiety about whether to fight out a particular case in a particular jurisdiction,” Michael C. Duff, a Laramie-based professor at the University of Wyoming’s College of Law, said in explaining why more cases along these lines haven’t been filed.

“Any case that would go to a jury is particularly problematic,” he said. “If a case makes it to a jury … then you would be likely to see a settlement.” “If I was Uber or Grubhub or Lyft, I would be very nervous every time a case makes its way to trial,” Mr. Duff added. “Employers don’t want cases to go to trial. They want them dismissed at the summary judgment stage.”