On June 3 2015, the California Labor Commissioner’s Officer determined that an Uber driver should be classified as an employee and not an independent contractor. This is the kind of decision that Uber has fought vigorously and, if the decision becomes precedent, it will have serious repercussions for Uber and other economy sharing companies.
Uber, which according to its website now operates in over 57 countries, claims that its drivers are independent contractors and that it only serves to connect drivers to passengers through its smart phone app. Until the recent California decision, Uber has succeeded in defeating similar claims, maintaining that it does not exert enough control over drivers to warrant employee classification. The California Labor Commissioner’s Office disagreed, determining that because Uber “would not exist without its drivers” the drivers should be classified as employees.
This recent decision applies to only one driver, the woman who brought the claim, and is non-binding. Uber will certainly appeal but if the California courts agree with this decision, such precedence will have an enormous impact on Uber. If Uber has to “employ” its drivers, it would be required to incur certain expenses that it currently avoids by classifying its drivers as independent contractors. For example, employers in California are required to reimburse employees for expenses and Uber could potentially have to begin reimbursing California drivers for gas, tolls and other expenses. Other Uber drivers will likely follow in bringing similar claims against Uber now that one driver has succeeded and Uber could also face expensive class action suits. While the decision only applies to one driver, the implications of this decision are broad and could have an enormous impact on the company.
There is much debate over Uber and whether its model is fair to drivers. Proponents of Uber argue that drivers are afforded flexibility in their work schedules that they would not have as employees. Others disagree, claiming that the model enables Uber to unfairly exploit its drivers for the enormous profit of the company. Regardless of which side you agree with, the Uber debate and recent decision demonstrates the importance of properly classifying workers. Independent contractor versus employee classification depends on a number of factors and it is essential that employers ensure that they are classifying (and thus paying) their workers correctly. Companies who fail to do so may find themselves in a similar position as Uber but without the vast resources that Uber has to fight legal battles.
ABOUT APRIL RANCIER
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April Rancier is an experienced labor and employment litigator who is well versed in both state and federal court proceedings with a practice concentration in Employment Discrimination. While Ms. Rancier focused in discrimination matters, she provides comprehensive and practical guidance for clients in the whole gamut of employee relations lssues that affect employers. These include issues arising out of claims of retaliation, claims of discrimination and harassment filed under Title VII and state and local anti-discrimination laws, and claims brought under federal statutes such as the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Working as a labor attorney, Ms. Rancier handles many different labor issues, wrongful termination claims, non-compete agreements, employment agreements, and severance agreements.
Ms. Rancier also handles other work related issues such as non-compete agreements, employment contracts, severance agreements and general contract claims, employment-related tort claims and other business and professional tort claims.
A published writer and frequent lecturer, Ms. Rancier is often called upon to speak on issues arising from discrimination and harassment claims filed under Title VII, retaliation claims and practical strategies to attain business objectives and be compliant with state and federal laws.
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