A Quarantined Uber Driver’s Quest for Paid Sick Leave

By Jacey Fortin
The New York Times

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 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 the company announced policies to offer paid leave or other compensation to workers infected by the coronavirus or ordered quarantined.

For several days, Frenette communicated with the company by telephone, email and the Uber app, but he kept getting the same feedback that he did not meet the criteria.

He got a payment of $1,565 Thursday — after he had gotten the news media involved.

About two weeks ago, Frenette picked up a man and a woman who said that they had just visited someone with the coronavirus. He also heard hints of possible illness from his two passengers — a cough and a sneeze.

That was enough to worry him. He said he visited his doctor the next day and got a letter recommending that he isolate himself.

Frenette, who has been unable to get tested for the coronavirus, has HIV, which means his immune system is compromised. The doctor’s letter noted that he was “immune suppressed” and expressed concerns that his job involved close interactions with customers.

Uber told him repeatedly that to qualify for assistance, he needed either a diagnosis of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, or an order from a licensed medical provider asking him to self-isolate “due to your risk of spreading COVID-19 to others.”

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

On Thursday, Frenette got a phone call from a woman at Uber who told him that he was getting an assistance payment.

Uber was not immediately able to say how much it has paid drivers so far as part of its coronavirus assistance policy. x

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