A federal judge in San Francisco determined litigation filed by drivers for the on-demand international transportation firm Uber can advance as a class-action suit. The case will ultimately decide whether the company’s drivers are employees or independent contractors.
Similarly in his finding, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen ruled the lawsuit will include the question over consumer largesse, which Uber failed to pass onto drivers. Additionally, Chen decreed drivers associated with Uber dating to May 2014 are required to vacate the arbitration agreement signed at the onset of their employment.
Tuesday’s ruling is the outcome of a lawsuit filed by three Uber drivers, all of whom maintain they are full-time workers which qualifies them for reimbursement for business expenses (fuel cost and vehicle upkeep).
If ruled in favor of the drivers’, Uber will be required to pay Social Security, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance. The company has stated it will appeal the court’s decision.
In presenting their case in front of Chen, Uber argued against class-action status because, “(Uber drivers) have little in common and relate to the company in different ways.”
Chen countered Uber’s dispute and wrote:
“On one hand, Uber argues that it has properly classified every single driver as an independent contractor; on the other, Uber argues that individual drivers are so unique that the court, unlike, apparently, Uber itself, cannot make its own determination.”
Despite Uber’s submissions of numerous sworn affidavits from current drivers attesting support for the firm and its management, Chen wrote there was “no basis” to consider the sworn statements as verifying a desire to remain an independent contractor as opposed to a full-time employee.
For a transportation firm, Uber frequently finds itself parked in a courtroom.
Besieged by a series of lawsuits, protests from taxi and livery services and a vortex of criticism by media, Uber is familiar with controversy. While their business model has inspired similar enterprises, the business design has raised serious questions regarding worker benefits.
In contrast, Uber has consistently maintained their business template is based on flexibility and does not demand its drivers commit to a typical 40-hour work week.
[Reuters] [Photo courtesy voucherbox.co.uk]