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Uber drivers sue over employment status

This will be worth watching.

Lawyers for 19 Texas drivers for Uber on Friday filed a federal class-action lawsuit in Houston, claiming the ride-hailing app company’s oversight and control of supposedly independent drivers is so pervasive, they should be considered employees.

If successful, the lawsuit could mean the thousands of local drivers for the company suddenly would be Uber workers instead of independent contractors, upending what some have considered an innovative business model and others have called modern-day servitude.

“The primary issue is, are these guys employees or independent contractors,” Houston lawyer Kevin Michaels said. “Uber tracks every move that a driver makes… As long as they are on the app, they are under Uber’s control.”

Uber officials Friday afternoon did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Lawyers said in the filing to the U.S. District Court for the Southern Division of Texas, the drivers made less than minimum wage when their time awaiting fares is calculated, despite the company’s claims in promotional materials that drivers could earn $100,000 a year.

“Given the current fare structures, an individual would have to drive an exorbitant number of hours on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to even approach gross fares totaling this amount, much less earn this amount,” the lawyers wrote. “Uber knew such statements were fraudulent and misleading and also knew that individuals would rely on such misrepresentations when deciding to become Uber drivers.”

[…]

The lawsuit filed Friday makes claims similar to those in various courts across the nation. A number of cases in California, Illinois, Massachusetts and other states already have drawn wide attention that could put the question on a path to the U.S. Supreme Court, should various circuit courts rule in different ways.

“It is definitely going to be years,” said Wilma B. Liebman, former chairwoman of the National Labor Relations Board.

It is the second lawsuit filed on behalf of drivers by Michaels. The first, filed by three drivers, prompted Friday’s filing, which adds claims that drivers should be considered employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

As noted, there are several of these lawsuits around the country. I think the California one is the oldest, but none have had any decisions rendered as yet. I can’t say I actually believe the drivers will win, but who knows what could happen. The DMN has more.

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3 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    Uh yeah, sorry….no. You provide your own tools (the car and the phone) and you are a contractor. Ask anyone who actually does contractor work. Just because you might be getting micromanaged by the company that contracted you, that doesn’t make you an employee. If Uber was providing the cars and the phones, then yes.

    When you hire a lawn service and stand outside and tell them exactly how you want each thing done, they are still contractors, not employees. They drive off in their own vehicle with their own tools. If you loan them a rake, it doesn’t suddenly make them employees.

  2. Joshua ben bullard says:

    Bill,your correct,2.2 million houstonians get super low fares because of the independent classification, if they were workers rates would increase-bigtime.What “drivers” need to understand ,quickly, is the sale of transportation is fastly becoming an additional income activity, Not a full-time deal for gods sake.and then Driverless, now if Turner would open the taxi permits..

  3. C.L. says:

    Once again I find myself agreeing with Bill Daniels. The end is nigh…