We are about halfway through the Washington State Legislative Session, one we expected to be quiet. However, House Bill 2382 has been introduced by Rep. Liz Berry, which expands L & I workers compensation death benefits for rideshare drivers.  Currently rideshare drivers are only covered by this benefit from when they accept a trip to when they end a trip. HB2382 expands coverage to include time when a rideshare driver is just logged on their app, even if they do not have a trip.

To better understand what this means, let’s first understand what this benefit is for.  The Department of Labor and Industries (L & I) runs the state’s workers compensation benefit program including the death benefit program which applies when a worker dies in a work-related event.  This benefit immediately pays out to either the surviving spouse, domestic partner, or dependent a funeral cost benefit. Then on an ongoing basis pays a pension to the surviving spouse or domestic partner equal to 60% of the deceased worker’s wages at the time of their death plus an additional 2% per surviving minor dependent up to an additional 10%.  If the spouse or domestic partner remarries or enters a new partnership the pension ends.  If there is no surviving spouse or domestic partner, then surviving dependents each get a benefit which varies in amount depending on the relationship to the deceased worker.

Now that we understand the benefit, let’s look at what the bill does to expand the coverage for rideshare drivers. Currently under state law passed in 2022 rideshare drivers are only covered by L & I benefits if they have accepted a trip and are on their way to the pick-up point or have picked-up the rider and are on their way to the destination.  Rideshare drivers are not currently covered if they are just signed into the app waiting for a ride.  HB2382 would change that, so now rideshare drivers would be covered for the L & I workers compensation death benefit if they were signed into the app with the intent to accept a ride.  There are two other major requirements to be eligible to be covered by this benefit:

  1. You must be in your vehicle; or
  2. You must be in the immediate vicinity of your vehicle.

In other words, if you have just finished a ride and have pulled away from the drop-off and you are killed in an accident your surviving family would be able to claim this benefit. However, if you are at home and turned on your app while getting ready to leave and die because of a slip and fall inside, you would not be covered. Those are just two examples, and we expect that there are other scenarios that are fuzzier, fortunately the bill gives L & I the authority to make rules and issue guidance on what would or would not be a covered event.

This legislation was introduced as a direct response to the tragic murders of five of your rideshare colleagues since 2020.  All these killings occurred while the driver was logged on their app but not on a ride.  None of their families received any compensation from the State of Washington through L & I.  We as a state should not let this happen again.  Our hearts, thought and prayers go out to the families of these five members of our gig-worker community.

Drive Forward has offered public and written testimony in support of passage of this legislation.