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California rules that Uber drivers are employees, not contractors

Wed 17 Jun 2015

The California Labor Commission has ruled that Uber is not a ‘neutral technology platform’ able to absent itself from responsibility for the people who provide its driving services, but instead is an ‘employer’ – with all the incumbent obligations entailed, such as Worker’s Compensation, Unemployment Insurance and Social Security.

The ruling was filed yesterday at a state court in San Francisco, and declares that the $40bn+ company, which is based in the same city, is ‘involved in every aspect of the operation’. The dispute was opened by Uber, who were protesting a labor commissioner’s award of approximately $4,000 (£2,500+) of expenses to former Uber-driver Barbara Ann Berwick, who filed a claim against the company last September after having worked for it for two months. The ruling agrees with a previous one from Florida, which also deemed that Uber is an employer, and the same court has previously rejected another attempt by Uber’s to classify its workforce as ‘independent contractors’.

Uber has maintained its longstanding viewpoint on the issue throughout the dispute, declaring that it is ‘nothing more than a neutral technology platform’.

However the commission found that Uber’s ability to control their drivers, monitor drivers’ approval ratings and dismiss them from the service (for any general rating below 4.6 stars) constitutes a far-from-neutral disposition towards those who participate in the ride-hailing scheme in the state of California.

In what appears to be a determined effort to profit from operating outside the restrictions of regular employment law, and law relating to driving services, Uber was reported in January to have suspended twelve of its drivers for getting their cars properly licensed.

In April Uber asked the San Francisco court to dismiss a lawsuit relating to the alleged rape of one of its passengers in Delhi in late 2014, claiming that the victim had no right to hold Uber accountable for the incident.


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