Federal Court: Uber Drivers Are Employees, Not Independent Contractors

After months of speculation, a federal court in Northern California held that drivers for Uber are employees and not independent contractors due to Uber’s control over the drivers’ schedules, routes, pay, and training.

The court was considering whether to certify a class action of thousands of drivers who had signed up to drive for Uber in California since August 2009. When a court decides whether to certify a class action, it is determining whether the case will proceed on behalf of the named plaintiffs only or on behalf of the entire class as defined in the case. At the class certification stage, the court does not consider the merits of the case, that is, whether plaintiff wins or loses, but whether the criteria for class certification are met.

This post will focus on the court’s determination of why it found that the Uber drivers in the class action pending before it were indeed Uber’s employees, like the drivers alleged, and not independent contractors, like Uber claimed. Future blog posts will discuss the requirements to get a class action certified, which is a key stage in class action proceedings. Stephen Danz & Associates has successfully handled many wage and hour class actions. We are happy to share our experience with our readers to educate and inform about the class action mechanism.

The court found that the Uber drivers were employees because Uber exercised control over the drivers’ work to such an extent that the drivers were Uber’s employees under California’s common law test for employment. See our prior blog post for information about independent contractor vs. employee classification. In addition, the class members’ (drivers’) claims were likely to be based on very similar facts so that a class action would be the right “vehicle” (pardon the pun) to resolve their claims. In other words, plaintiffs’ claims are similar enough that the court can resolve all of their claims at once without causing any class member to suffer prejudice for not having his or her claims heard individually by the court.

Let us know what you think about the court’s decision. Stephen Danz & Associates has extensive experience in representing employees across California. You can contact us for a free consultation regarding any employment issue and we are happy to talk to you.