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SAN FRANCISCO—The first big trial over worker rights in the “gig economy” begins today, and it could answer fundamental questions about how workers in the digital age should be treated, as well as what kinds of benefits, breaks, and pay they’re entitled to.
The case that’s beginning right now doesn’t have a big name, deep-pocketed defendant like Uber. Rather, the case is the lesser-known Lawson v.

Grubhub
. Plaintiff Raef Lawson sued Grubhub in 2015, claiming he wasn’t properly paid for his work while driving around delivering food for Grubhub.
If Lawson was an employee, he’d be eligible for benefits like insurance, unemployment, and reimbursement for expenses like gas and phone bills. He’d have to be paid at least minimum wage and get state-mandated breaks. Lawson was fired from Grubhub because, the company said, he didn’t adequately respond to delivery requests.
Lawson can only seek damages, like back pay and additional penalties, for himself. His request to make the case a class action was denied by US Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley.

Even if Lawson wins a complete victory, it’s hardly enough to make much difference to a company like Grubhub, which is becoming a growing force in the food-delivery space, and announced last month that it will purchase Yelp’s Eat24 service.
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