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Seattle rideshare drivers gain legal protections from wrongful termination

A new law went into effect Thursday specifically for Uber and Lyft drivers in Seattle.

SEATTLE — A groundbreaking new law for Seattle Uber and Lyft drivers goes into effect Thursday, offering legal protections for drivers faced with unwarranted termination or deactivation. 

Seattle is the first city to offer gig workers such protections. Some drivers said they felt "proud" and more "equal" to other workers.

"July 1 will be a new beginning for drivers. It's a turning point where drivers will have a place to go to report a situation," said Peter Kuel, president of Drivers Union who says he started the union after seeing too many other drivers lose work after customer complaints about seat belts not working or complaints about driving. "Sometimes they don't know how to use the seat belt, and someone says, 'They are no good.' [The driver] is thrown out."

For drivers like Nurayne Fofana, this day is historic. After becoming a driver in 2016 because of the flexible hours and good pay, he was in an accident while carrying passengers in 2017.

Fofana said he took the appropriate actions with the police, insurance company and Uber. Even after getting the report saying he wasn't at fault, the company still deactivated him for being in an accident. For Fofana, who still has car payments, that means he couldn't drive or make money with Uber.

"A lot of win for drivers. It means peace of mind, it means job security for drivers," said Fofana.

Kuel said he believes having drivers that feel safe and secure in their jobs will result in better customer service and happier passengers. 

The Deactivation Rights Ordinance is a joint effort between Seattle and Drivers Union following the 2020 passage of Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan's "Fare Share" proposal.

Drivers Union will be able to offer drivers services like legal consultation and education in multiple languages through at least December 2022. 

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