A California judge has ordered Uber and Lyft to reclassify their workers from independent contractors to employees with benefits, a ruling that could be consequential for gig economy workers if it survives the appeals process.

California Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman ruled on Monday that Lyft and Uber's thousands of contract drivers should be given the same protections and benefits under labor law as other full-time employees of the ride-hailing companies.

Schulman said Lyft and Uber use "circular reasoning" by only treating tech workers, not drivers, as employees.

"Were this reasoning to be accepted, the rapidly expanding majority of industries that rely heavily on technology could with impunity deprive legions of workers of the basic protections afforded to employees by state labor and employment laws," Schulman wrote.

The judge said Uber and Lyft have refused to comply with a California law passed last year that was supposed to make it harder for companies in the state to hire workers as contractors, so gig economy workers like drivers for the ride-hailing companies would receive health insurance and workers' compensation.

The judge's order does not take effect for 10 days. Both Uber and Lyft say they plan to appeal.

"The vast majority of drivers want to work independently, and we've already made significant changes to our app to ensure that remains the case under California law," said Uber spokesman Matt Kallman. "When over 3 million Californians are without a job, our elected leaders should be focused on creating work, not trying to shut down an entire industry during an economic depression."

After the new state law, known as AB5, was passed, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and city officials in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco sued Uber and Lyft to force the companies to comply.

The order on Monday comes ahead of the trial in that case. But Schulman said there was an "overwhelming likelihood" that the state of California would win the case.

Uber and Lyft have asked the court to delay the order until after November, when California voters will be asked whether to keep drivers as independent contractors, but Schulman rejected this request.

"Defendants are not entitled to an indefinite postponement of their day of reckoning," the judge wrote.

Uber and Lyft, which already have trouble turning a profit, have argued that converting drivers to full-time employees would force the companies to lay off drivers and result in higher prices for passengers.

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