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To mandate or not to mandate? For so many companies, that is the question.
Ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft have made the increasingly popular split decision: Employees who want to return to the office need to have their shots. Drivers do not.
Both companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars campaigning and lobbying to keep drivers classified as independent contractors.
So, a basic legal question first: Can a gig economy company force a gig economy worker to get the vaccine?
“Of course they can,” said Veena Dubal, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law.
Ride-hailing companies already mandate a bunch of things. “The cars have to be maintained in a certain way,” Dubal said. “Now the drivers have to wear masks.”
Both Lyft and Uber said they strongly encourage drivers to get vaccinated. Uber said in an email to Marketplace that it is not considering mandating vaccines for drivers or delivery people.
Anything stronger could backfire, just as ridership is starting to approach pre-pandemic levels, said Paul Oyer, professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
“There are going to be a bunch of drivers that are vaccine resistant, who will therefore not be able to drive for them,” Oyer said. “And given that right now they’re having trouble getting enough drivers, that’s a big issue.”
On the other hand, Oyer said a mandate that includes drivers and riders could boost business in some places where passengers are looking for reassurance.
Karen Reincke drives for Uber and Lyft in San Antonio. She’s vaccinated. She’s also 56 and diabetic. So when someone sneezes in the back seat, “you know I immediately get out of the car and wipe everything down,” she said.
Reincke supports a driver mandate.
“So, I think that drivers would be OK with it,” Reincke said. “If they’re not OK with it, all the more money for me. They don’t have to drive.”
At the very least, she said, the app should let riders know she’s vaccinated.
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