Coronavirus and Paid Sick Leave: A Quarantined Uber Driver’s Quest


Zachary Frenette likes working as an Uber driver in Phoenix. He is a top-rated driver who often chats with his customers on their trips.

During the outbreak of the coronavirus last month, business began to slow. Then, a possible exposure to the virus prompted Mr. Frenette, 29, to quarantine himself. Off the roads and worried about making his rent on time, he turned to Uber for help.

He had heard that the ride-hailing app was one of several companies that announced policies to offer paid leave or other compensation to workers infected by the coronavirus or ordered quarantined by the government or health care providers.

For several days, Mr. Frenette communicated with the company by telephone, email and the Uber app, but he kept getting the same feedback — always polite, probably scripted and sometimes maddeningly vague — that he did not meet the criteria.

According to one message, Mr. Frenette did not provide documents that he was “suffering from Covid-like symptoms, currently diagnosed with Covid, or at risk of spreading Covid.”

“Are you kidding me?” he wrote in response.

Days into his quarantine, one of his many calls to the company led him to an agent who seemed willing to help. She told him to try sending a letter through a different portal on the website — one dedicated not to drivers, but to law enforcement and public health officials.

That seemed to get some gears turning, but the financial assistance still did not come.

When Mr. Frenette complained that he had no way to make money and was still not getting help, the company reactivated his account, essentially allowing him to drive.

“Reactivating someone’s account when a medical professional has stated that they might have been exposed to coronavirus and is under self-quarantine is a careless way to avoid taking responsibility for the financial assistance I’m supposed to receive,” Mr. Frenette wrote to Uber on March 28. “That doesn’t look so great.”

His account has since been suspended again. Ms. Whaling confirmed that his account had been briefly activated, adding that the mistake was quickly “rectified and resolved.”

Mr. Frenette said he started to think about how other drivers in similar situations might be faring under the new policy, and what he could do to help.

He contacted news reporters. Business Insider first reported on Mr. Frenette’s case, among others, in an article published on Wednesday.

Jacey Fortin

2020-04-04 15:46:25

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