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Does driving for Uber mean an end to unemployment benefits?

The so-called "gig economy" that's sweeping the nation is often a lifesaver for workers who suddenly find themselves without a full-time job. Among the many options available for short-term work, driving for Uber or Lyft in order to make some much-needed cash is a hugely popular option. In fact, many people use the ride-sharing service to supplement their incomes even while they're already working somewhere else.

What happens, though, to unemployment in cases where a worker would ordinarily have the right to seek benefits after being terminated by his or her regular employer? Does working for Uber or Lyft mean that you are now self-employed -- and, therefore, not eligible for those needed unemployment checks?

According to the courts in Pennsylvania, there's nothing about your work as a driver that should automatically interfere with your ability to claim at least some of your unemployment benefits.

Drivers for ride-sharing companies are classified as independent contractors in Pennsylvania. In the past, the Office of Unemployment Compensation has sought to deny benefits when it felt that a driver was operating a substantial business and not just earning a little money on the side. It was unsuccessful in the long run, however, of convincing the courts that such a rule was fair.

The reality is that drivers who work for Uber or Lyft may have a fairly erratic income from week to week. The work isn't really designed to be a full-time occupation for anyone. Unless you try to establish your own business, you should still be eligible for any supplemental payments you are due after your earnings are taken into consideration. If you are suddenly unable to drive, you also have the right to pursue the remainder of your unemployment.

Keep in mind, however, that it's always important to be upfront about your income from any source when you are seeking unemployment compensation. That can help you avoid problems in the future.

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