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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Judge Grants Uber Drivers Class Action Status in Pivotal Independent Contractor Lawsuit

Posted By on Tue, Sep 1, 2015 at 2:40 PM

click to enlarge The judge rejected Uber's attempts to concern troll the opposing counsel over her workload - EVAN LORNE / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Evan Lorne /
  • The judge rejected Uber's attempts to concern troll the opposing counsel over her workload

A federal judge has granted California Uber drivers class action status in a pivotal lawsuit with major implications for the future of the on-demand economy. The lawsuit challenges Uber's classification of drivers as independent contractors instead of direct employees. 

According to the ruling, the class represented in the lawsuit will include: 
All UberBlack, UberX, and UberSUV drivers who have driven for Uber in the state of California at any time since August 16, 2009, and who (1) signed up to drive directly with Uber or an Uber subsidiary under their individual name, and (2) are/were paid by Uber or an Uber subsidiary directly and in their individual name, and (3) did not electronically accept any contract with Uber or one of Uber’s subsidiaries which contain the notice and opt-out provisions previously ordered by this Court (including those contracts listed in the Appendix to this Order), unless the driver timely opted-out of that contract’s arbitration agreement.
In June, the California Labor Commission ruled that a single Uber driver was an employee, not an independent contractor. That ruling had very limited applicability, but the Uber suit could have far-reaching consequences. Attorney Shannon Liss Riordan has brought a number of other class action suits against on-demand economy companies including Lyft, Postmates, Handy, and Caviar on the same issue of worker classification. Independent contractors are not eligible for basic labor law protections such as the minimum wage, overtime, unemployment insurance, worker's compensation insurance, and the right to organize a union. 

Liss Riordan spoke with SF Weekly in April, saying: 

The cases are all pretty similar legally as well as factually. What we have here are a number of companies that are shifting the cost of running a business to their workers. Like Uber and Lyft and a number of other companies that have started in recent years that provide their services through a smartphone application, they seem to think that offering their services to customers through this use of technology somehow gets them around the employment rules, but it doesn't.
We'll update this story when we've had time to read the whole ruling (embedded below), but based on a quick skim, one section at the end deserves a quick shout out. 

Having granted class action status for the lawsuit, the judge is required to appoint a lawyer for the class. In the ruling, Judge Edward M. Chen brings up Uber's "concern" that Liss Riordan is "overextended because of the multitude of cases she is currently prosecuting against Uber and similar firms." That doesn't stop the judge from appointing Liss Riordan counsel (although he drops in some supremely unnecessary advice that she "focus considerable time and attention on this case"), but it's a tad funny and infuriatingly patronizing all the same.

Uber's attorneys might want to focus on their own ever-expanding docket of lawsuits, and leave Liss Riordan to manage her own workload. 

click to enlarge uber_concern_troll.png

Uber Class Action Order

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About The Author

Julia Carrie Wong

Julia Carrie Wong's work has appeared in numerous local and national titles including 48hills, Salon, In These Times, The Nation, and The New Yorker.

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