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Two Uber Drivers Were Just Granted Unemployment Benefits

October 14, 2016, 12:31 AM UTC
Taxi Drivers Protest Possible Uber Expansion In NYC
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 20: An Uber vehicle is viewed in Manhattan on July 20, 2015 in New York City. New York's City Council has proposed two bills last month to limit the number of new for-hire vehicles, as well as to study the rapidly rising industry's impact on traffic. Uber has responded in an open letter arguing that its 6,000 Uber cars out during an average hour are a small part of the city's overall traffic. In cities across the globe Uber has upended the traditional taxi concept with many drivers and governments taking action against the California based company. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Photograph by Spencer Platt—Getty Images

It has long been debated whether Uber (UBER) drivers should be considered employees or contractors.

While that debate endures, at least two Uber drivers have recently been granted benefits that are given exclusively to employees. The New York Times reports that the New York Department of Labor has ruled that the two drivers, one of whom also drove for Lyft, were eligible to receive unemployment payments. The ruling doesn’t, however, doesn’t give them any other employee benefits, nor does it extend to any other drivers.

“I think this is a game changer,” Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Tax Workers Alliance, told the Times. “Uber has depended on the political structure turning a blind eye. What these decisions do is force a microscopic review.” The hope is that this ruling will pressure the labor department to extend similar rulings to others, though New York Labor Department spokesperson Tiffany Portzer thinks otherwise. She says that “unemployment determinations are made on a case-by-case basis,” and there have been decisions supporting both sides of the argument.

While the Department of Labor has ruled that several drivers are independent contractors, we have appealed the other determinations,” Uber told Fortune in a statement. The company maintained that it’s in the driver’s best interest to be classified as a contractor rather than an employee, because that’s what gives them “the personal flexibility they value most” and the ability to “[be] their own boss.”