Uber/Lyft & EDD: Filing for Unemployment Insurance (UI) Benefits As a Rideshare Driver in California

California drivers: Submit a wage claim to the CA Labor Commissioner from our website to demand backpay from Uber/Lyft for misclassification

Updated 5/19/2020

UI is Better than PUA for Rideshare Drivers and Other Misclassified Workers in CA: Here's Why:

App-based drivers and other gig workers are considered employees and absolutely qualify for Unemployment Insurance (UI) in California.

Because Lyft & Uber have defied the law and issue 1099’s for us, we are considered “misclassified” – the state and EDD see us as employees, but our bosses don’t.

That's crystal clear. But the CA State guidelines on UI vs PUA (the support for workers NOT eligible for UI) are confusing (https://www.labor.ca.gov/pandemic-unemployment-assistance-pua-program/).  Are we self-employed/independent contractors eligible for PUA? Or are we misclassified employees? 

Most drivers who have applied to UI already have been accepted to the UI program, but their benefits so far are $0. Why? Because the state wants to verify our wage data – and Uber and Lyft aren’t giving it to them.

So, understandably, there is a tremendous amount of confusion and frustration right now.

With guidance from Legal Aid at Work (https://legalaidatwork.org/) we stand firmly that regular UI is our best way to access benefits.  Here are two charts, comparing the benefits. 

UI Vs. PUI - Amount of Benefits You Can Receive + Other Differences - CLICK HERE

The state promised quick action on PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) – with an on-line application available on 4/28, and people quickly receiving payments. For those of us applying for UI, the process of verifying our income has taken way too long.  Some of us sit accepted to the program, but with $0 benefits because the state is working to verify our earnings with Uber/Lyft. We are working aggressively to push EDD to streamline state UI money to misclassified workers like ourselves. 

Good news is, most drivers report eventually receiving their full UI benefits. But for everyone thus far, it has been a lengthy process, as the state has to find other ways to verify our income because Uber and Lyft are not following the law, and don't report our earnings. In addition, many of the frontline phone operators at EDD don't have the correct information about misclassified workers like ourselves, or the process.

The frustration about this is sky high with drivers. We should be paid NOW and we should be receiving our state benefit based on our past income and the additional $600 federal benefit.

So what should we do?

Our advice: file for regular UI – best instructions are below.

How to File for Unemployment

Gather your wage information: You’ll need to gather the information you will need for the process first. The UI process asks for your gross income month by month over 18 months.  This can be official 1099s, or whatever tax information you receive through your drivers apps.

If you grossed more than $46,800 in the last year, you are eligible to receive the maximum UI benefits of $450/week, and you don’t have to break down all your earnings. Because UI is determined by your highest gross earnings in a quarter, you may be able to secure a higher benefit if you break down your earnings for the last 18 months by quarter. 

Figuring out your gross by quarter can be a chore. If you receive 1099s, you may receive a 1099K and a 1099Misc. Your 1099K breaks down your monthly earnings so it’s easy to figure out your quarterly. If your 1099K’s show any quarter where you have earned more than $11,700, you’re good and will be eligible for the max without doing much more math. If it’s less than that, you’ll want to divide your 1099MISC by 4 and add that to your best quarter. Still not at $11,700 for a quarter? You may have to go deeper.

Some of us only receive tax info for the year via the app. If you need to break down your earnings on a monthly basis to show your quarterly gross earnings accurately and hopefully get a higher benefit, we’ve got specific information on how to do that within the Uber and the Lyft apps:  Uber Process and Lyft Process

If you have a lot of figuring to do, you may find these worksheets helpful: Uber Worksheet and Lyft Worksheet . Or if you have excel, you can download this form and it does some automatic figuring for you: excel quarterly earnings worksheet

Save your tax documents, and your calculations for the quarterly totals, as you will need to share this data over and over again in this process.

Begin process on EDD Website: https://www.edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/UI_Online.htm

Our guide: We developed this guide which will walk you through the process of filing on the website. The EDD website is being updated on a daily basis, but the basics are here - though this may be slightly behind. We are updating it regularly to match their updates:
Step-by-Step Guide To File for Unemployment in California

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I apply as an employee?

  • In California under AB5, yes, you file as an employee. EDD understands Lyft & Uber drivers to be employees, even though our employers have misclassified us as independent contractors

What do I put as Uber & Lyft's information?

  • Uber Technologies Inc. 1-866-576-1039
    1455 Market St #400 San Francisco, CA 94103
  • Lyft Inc.- 1-855-865-9553
    185 Berry St #5000 San Francisco, CA 94107

Will I need to apply for the federal aid too?

  • An additional weekly $600 federal support is available to everyone who gets state UI until the end of July. Once the EDD verifies our income as drivers, we receive both UI and the $600. It's still taking too long for EDD to verify our income, but we're fighting to push for a quicker, more streamlined process. (https://www.sfexaminer.com/news/uber-and-lyft-drivers-demand-unemployment-benefits/
  • In terms of PUA, the state is figuring out a process right now so contractors and self-employed workers can access those federal benefits. We are not recommending drivers apply for PUA as under AB5 we are eligible for regular UI as misclassified workers – and will be better protected that way. However, workers have been able to request PUA since 4/28.

Can I file for UI as an immigrant?

  • Anyone with a work permit or green card or a citizen can apply for UI. Undocumented drivers should not apply.
  • Because it is considered an earned benefit, it does not fall under the “public charge” category, and will not count against future immigration status for documented workers.
  • A new program for undocumented workers in California called the Direct Disaster Assistance program is designed for undocumented people. To access that program, click this link:
    https://www.cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/immigration/covid-19-dra

What is my UI award based on?

  • You weekly state benefit will be between $40 and $450 per week, and is 50% of your weekly pay, up to $900/week.
  • The weekly benefit amount will be based on your highest quarter of the base period, which is a four quarter long period. $11700 earnings in a quarter or more will give you the max.
  • In addition to the state benefit, $600/week federal benefit will be added to regular UI benefits until the end of July.

I filed several weeks ago, but don’t have benefits yet. When will the benefits start?

  • The state has promised to give benefits for all weeks we've applied for, back to February 1. So once we certify, those benefits will come to you retroactively. You’ll need to make sure you are filling in the bi-weekly certifications every week – see below.

    I was certified, but my benefit is $0. How do I fix that?

    If you receive a $0 benefit, this is probably because Lyft and Uber ignore the law that requires them to report driver earnings to the state. You'll have to go through a process with EDD to verify your earnings. 

    If your benefit was smaller than it should be - and not based on ALL your lost earnings, this process will help you as well.  

    Right now there are 2 things you have to do to  - on the web, and in the mail:

    (1) File a correction via the EDD Website:
    a) Log onto UI Online at uio.edd.ca.gov, click the UI Online button, and then click the “Contact Us” tab on the right side of the webpage.
    b) Select “Claim Questions” under the Question Category dropdown menu. Then select “Missing Wages from Claims” from the Question Topic dropdown menu.
    c) Briefly state why EDD does not have your wage information. If you drive for Uber or Lyft, you can write the following (filling in the appropriate information):

    I am an employee driver of _____.  I was misclassified by the company(ies) as an independent contractor, and my notice of award does not reflect the wages I earned while working for ______. I am sending proof of my earning via tax information via US mail. Please let me know if I can get it to you via online.

    According to the 1099-K I received from ______, I earned $XX,XXX between January and March, earned $XX,XXX between April and June, earned $XX,XXX between July and September, and earned $XX,XXX between October and December. According to the 1099-K for 2018, I earned $XX,XXX between October and December 2018. According to my 1099-MISC, I additionally earned $X,XXX in 2019, and $X,XXX in 2018. 

    [Repeat that for every company that failed to report your earnings to the state.]

    If you did not receive a 1099-MISC or a 1099K, use the tax info provided by the company as outlined in our Step-By-Step UI Guide, above. This is common for a part-time driver.

    Click “Submit”

    You can also watch this video to navigate you through this process at https://youtu.be/2W7e3P2lrO8.

    (2) File a correction via US Post Mail:
    When you receive your certification letter, mail it back with these corrections and additions:

    1. Cross out the zeros and write in the appropriate amounts to the address listed on the upper left-hand corner of the Notice of Unemployment Insurance Award.  See an example of this below.
    2. Attach 1099s or other evidence of wages in each of your claims.
    3. Keep copies of everything you send in.

      Once You've Applied, Certify Bi-Weekly!

      You will start getting weekly correspondence from the EDD, asking questions about your work. Even if they have not awarded you a weekly benefit yet you must respond.

      Continue to certify while they are still processing your claim. You can certify in various ways:

      1. Certify online at uio.edd.ca.gov,
      2. Certify on mobile at uiom.edd.ca.gov, or
      3. Certify by phone at U1-866-333-4606 and select Option 2.

      Here are our recommendations for filling out the questionnaire based on advice from Legal Aid at Work.

      Answer all questions and honestly - and here are a few tips:

          1. Question 2 is confusing: "Was there any reason (other than sickness or injury) that you could not have accepted full-time work each workday?” Answer NO if you could have accepted work, even if you could not find work because of the pandemic.
          2. Question 4 can confuse people too: “Did you refuse any work?” You can answer NO even if you did not log into Uber or Lyft.
          3. It is always important to be available to work and not to refuse work while receiving unemployment insurance benefits.