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Lyft car. Jason Doiy/ALM.

Prominent on-demand companies Lyft Inc. and Postmates Inc. are unlawfully classifying their workers as independent contractors, according to new lawsuits that mark the beginning of an anticipated flood of cases tethered to a California Supreme Court ruling that upended employee classification schemes.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, a Boston-based lawyer who has long challenged how gig economy companies classify their workforces, filed two separate lawsuits this week on behalf of workers for Postmates, an on-demand delivery service, and the ride-hailing company Lyft.

The lawsuits come just days after the California Supreme Court ruling in Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court set a more rigid standard for how a company can deem a worker as an independent contractor. The court reversed a more flexible standard, preferred by the business community, that gave companies more room for interpretation. Employment attorneys have said the new standard could make it difficult for gig economy companies to argue their workers are contractors and not employees.


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The distinction between independent contractor and employee is a key tension in the growing gig economy and has been the source of high-profile trials, settlements and ongoing lawsuits. Many on-demand companies build their workforces around independent contractors, who are not entitled to the same benefits as employees.

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