California District Court Judge Edward Chen has ruled that a legal action brought by four Uber drivers claiming employee rather than independent contractor status will be allowed to proceed as a class action.
The class action will represent anyone who has driven for Uber in California since 2009 who has not waived their right to the class-action arbitration (which many did when Uber updated its driver contract in 2014).
Judge Chen said the onus would be on Uber to “disprove an employment relationship” existed with the drivers, with the key issues being the company’s level of control over how the drivers worked, hours worked and who provides the tools needed to perform the work. Shannon Liss-Riordan, who represents the Uber drivers, argued that the drivers should be regarded as employees on the basis that Uber controls fare levelss and contract termination.
The case is of interest not only in relation to Uber’s future, but for companies who use Uber’s business model globally including in Australia – the model is increasingly common in “sharing economy” companies. Uber claims it offers an electronic platform service provision rather than a taxi service.
An Uber spokesperson in the US has confirmed that the company will appeal the decision to grant the lawsuit class action status.