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posted by janrinok on Sunday February 11, @05:24PM   Printer-friendly
from the losing-track-of-these-company-names dept.

In what is believed to be the first gig economy case to be fully decided on the merits, Grubhub has beaten back a labor lawsuit filed by one of its former drivers.

In a court opinion released Thursday by US Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley, "the Court finds that Grubhub has satisfied its burden of showing that Mr. Lawson was properly classified as an independent contractor."

Both sides had agreed that Judge Corley, rather than a jury, would decide the case in her San Francisco federal courtroom. She heard closing arguments in late October 2017.

[...] Part of what may have doomed Lawson's own case was that, in Judge Corley's estimation, in addition to working for other gig economy companies while simultaneously working for Grubhub, he was fundamentally "not credible."

[...] Lawson, by his own admission, "gamed the app" by scheduling himself for a work shift (a "block" in company parlance) but received few, if any, actual delivery orders by putting his phone in airplane mode, among other tactics.

"Mr. Lawson's claimed ignorance of his dishonest conduct is not credible," Judge Corley wrote. "Mr. Lawson would remember if after he filed this lawsuit against Grubhub he cheated Grubhub. If he had not moved his smart phone to airplane mode, intentionally toggled available late, or deliberately engaged in other conduct to get paid for doing nothing he would have denied doing so at trial. But he did not."

[...] Michael LeRoy, a professor of labor law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Ars that the case has "limited precedential value."

"Going forward," he emailed, "lawyers who bring these types of lawsuits should have reservations about pushing too far or long with a plaintiff who can be shown to cheat and who gives sworn deposition or trial testimony that is not credible."

Ars Technica


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  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, @05:41PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, @05:41PM (#636390)

    the idiot either got one tax form or the other. how in the hell is this unclear? why are taxpayers paying to even have this case heard? what is wrong with this country? something in the water?

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday February 11, @06:37PM (1 child)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11, @06:37PM (#636408) Journal

      the idiot either got one tax form or the other.

      No, it's not that simple. Being classified as an employee would likely entitle the plaintiff to back pay (due to minimum wage and overtime pay) and other sorts of compensation. In California, that could be rather expensive for the business.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Sulla on Monday February 12, @03:41AM

        by Sulla (5173) on Monday February 12, @03:41AM (#636562) Journal

        It would also cause trouble for the new employer who were required to collect income taxes on the "employee" for the year but did not.

        My wife was an indipendent contractor at an aflac office as the office manager. When we were doing taxes I realized that she qualifed as an employee. I talked to the two people paying her and one of them gave my wife a massive bonus to cover the taxes. He didn't understand the system and felt bad how bad it hit us.. I imagine most employers would have been dicks about it. I helped him figure the system out so when my wife left the job he could correctly hire employees and collect the taxes.

        --
        I post without karma bonus, you should too
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, @06:11PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, @06:11PM (#636402)

    I hope grub hub and the government get this fool back into court for his attempts at fraud.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Whoever on Sunday February 11, @07:44PM

      by Whoever (4524) on Sunday February 11, @07:44PM (#636420)

      What fraud?

      It was only fraud if he was an employee. Since the court found that he was a contractor, there was no fraud.

  • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Sunday February 11, @07:18PM (3 children)

    by hemocyanin (186) on Sunday February 11, @07:18PM (#636416)

    How is signing up for a block of time for gigs, and then being unavailable to receive the gigs, gaming the system? If he didn't get a gig, he didn't get paid or did they pay a flat rate for being available? This is not explained her in the TFA.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by Whoever on Sunday February 11, @07:29PM (2 children)

      by Whoever (4524) on Sunday February 11, @07:29PM (#636418)

      Had he been classified as an employee, he would have been paid for those shifts (blocks) that he had scheduled himself for.

      • (Score: 2, Insightful) by frojack on Sunday February 11, @11:47PM (1 child)

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11, @11:47PM (#636491) Journal

        Not if he was unavailable to work.
        Even salaried people can't sneak out and sleep in the store room and expect no consequences when found out.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 2) by TheRaven on Monday February 12, @11:36AM

          by TheRaven (270) on Monday February 12, @11:36AM (#636638) Journal
          He'd likely still have been entitled to his salary, but he'd also have been fired. His employer may also have had a case for fraud against him, though it probably wouldn't have been worth their while to take him to court.
          --
          sudo mod me up
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Whoever on Sunday February 11, @07:26PM (12 children)

    by Whoever (4524) on Sunday February 11, @07:26PM (#636417)

    Note that CA law starts with the presumption that the person is an employee. This presumption must be rebutted.

    From the CA Department of Industrial Relations website:

    Even where there is an absence of control over work details, an employer-employee relationship will be found if (1) the principal retains pervasive control over the operation as a whole, (2) the worker's duties are an integral part of the operation, and (3) the nature of the work makes detailed control unnecessary. (Yellow Cab Cooperative v. Workers Compensation Appeals Board (1991) 226 Cal.App.3d 1288)

    Applying this to Uber:
    1. Yes.
    2. Yes.
    3. Yes.

    In non-lawyer-ly and naive analysis, it appears that Uber drivers are employees.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Entropy on Sunday February 11, @08:00PM (9 children)

      by Entropy (4228) on Sunday February 11, @08:00PM (#636422)

      First of all, this is using California as a model. California should never be used as a model for anything but failure. Their government is bankrupt, and constantly getting bailouts from everyone else. But enough on that:

      1. Yes. Uber does control the operation as a whole.
      2. No. They worker can not come into work with no notice on any day they choose. They can never return to work, or work every day in a given week completely.
      3. Questionable. I suppose it depends on what "detail control" is. Is it that they need to drive from A, to B or drive from A, to B along a certain route?

      In civilized parts of the country, the distinction between employee/contractor is employees have a lot more control imposed on them by the employer. Contractors can often come into work whenever they want, stop work without notice, etc. Here's an example:
      Employer-Employee: I need you do do XYZ on monday from 8am-5pm.
      Contractor: I need you to do XYZ by Tuesday.

      That's much simplified, of course. Contractors are not always screwed, either. They have huge tax advantages over employees.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Knowledge Troll on Sunday February 11, @09:26PM (1 child)

        by Knowledge Troll (5948) on Sunday February 11, @09:26PM (#636450) Journal

        Their government is bankrupt, and constantly getting bailouts from everyone else

        What are you talking about?

        • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, @01:51AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, @01:51AM (#636527)

          To expand: By itself, Progressive Cali subsidizes the existence of several of the Reactionary states.

          Blue State Voters Subsidize Southern Red State Voters, Not the Other Way Around [truth-out.org]

          Mitt Romney received his greatest support from a significant portion of Americans he referred to as "moochers", who reside in the rural South. The Tax Foundation found that the Southern states have the largest percentage of people who don't pay income taxes, in general, due to low income or tax avoidance:

          Nine of the ten states with the largest percentage of nonpayers are in the South and Southwest. In Mississippi, 45 percent of federal tax returns remit nothing or receive money with their federal tax returns; that is the highest percentage nationally. Georgia is next at 41 percent, followed by Arkansas at 41 percent, and Alabama, South Carolina, and New Mexico at 40 percent.

          My guess is that where Entropy is is among that "taker" lot.

          ...and AC#636494, below us, really wails on this.

          .
          The only major example of where NOT to follow Cali's example I can think of is the "deregulation" of electricity and the resulting rolling blackouts (Enron). [google.com]

          N.B. The City of Los Angeles didn't have that problem.
          (The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is publicly-owned.
          Natural monopolies should have been socialized from Day 1.)

          -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by vux984 on Sunday February 11, @11:06PM

        by vux984 (5045) on Sunday February 11, @11:06PM (#636477)

        re:
        1. You already agreed 'yes' so we'll move on.

        2. "The workers activities are an integral part of the operation" -- you wrote no, but you are mistaken. The criteria here is not whether or not that particular person is critical to show up, but rather whether that persons activities are integral to the business model. A pizza place without someone to make pizza is not a viable business - making pizza is integral to the operation. A pizza place without someone showing up to repaint the signs is still a pizza place. That is what 'integral' means here. Being integral is doesn't automatically make one an employee by itself, but taken with the other criteria does.

        3. "Detailed control" - Your raising the question of route selection is kind of nonsensical; if I'm tasked with stocking the shelves at walmart, can i get classified as a contractor if I can choose from a few different paths through the store from the shelves to the stock area? The only real autonomy uber drivers have is scheduling availability.

        "In civilized parts of the country, the distinction between employee/contractor is employees have a lot more control imposed on them by the employer."

        This is true, scheduling autonomy is a big one as you noted, but lots of bona fide contractors don't have it and lots of employees do.
        For example if you are a wedding photographer you are not the wedding couples employee, even though they dictate the event timing and locations. On the other hand, my first IT job, I was a bona fide employee with virtually complete schedule autonomy and I could remote work a lot of the time, but I was on payroll. Scheduling autonomy by itself isn't a deciding factor.

        Most governments push towards classifying someone as an employee in grey areas; so if even if its 'questionable' its probably going to land in the 'employee' category.

      • (Score: 5, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, @11:55PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, @11:55PM (#636494)

        California should never be used as a model for anything but failure. Their government is bankrupt, and constantly getting bailouts from everyone else.

        Because you're talking out of your ass.

        California has the highest GDP of any state and, if it were an independent country would have the sixth highest GDP in the world. [wikipedia.org]

        The state of California is also one of the least dependent on Federal funds, either 46th out of 50 [wallethub.com] or 43rd out of 50 [taxfoundation.org], take your pick.

        N.B: I do not live in California or anywhere near it. I am, however, rather fond of facts.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, @06:35PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, @06:35PM (#636767)

          California is dependent on the rest of the country for water though.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, @10:11PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, @10:11PM (#636851)

            California is dependent on the rest of the country for water

            You're talking about -Southern- California.

            ...but we still produce manufactured goods for the rest of the nation, are a major handler of imported goods via our ports, and refine a lot of petroleum for the western states.
            We also export electricity to Arizona (where Big Electricity has stymied the uptake of solar capture).

            Yeah, -SoCal- is a net importer of water.
            We started out with engineer William Mulholland getting water from Mono Lake in Kern County (which might be considered part of SoCal).

            ...but there's no particularly good reason for our dependency.

            We do have folks who came here from elsewhere who just HAVE to have a big green lawn.
            The City of Santa Ana, when it did a rework of a major street, put in Astroturf where there had been grass.
            During our extended drought, some folks have taken to using a water-based paint solution to make their brown grass green.
            ...and the natural foliage for this area is succulents (aloe vera, cactus, etc.)--many of which are edible and/or otherwise useful (e.g. medicines).

            Going back several years, you might remember that guy in Orange County who got in a pissing match with the gov't of the City of Orange when he xeriscaped his front lawn. [google.com]
            Eventually, he lost that case.
            The let's-mandate-the-use-of-extravagant-amounts-of-water folks are looking really stupid these day.

            ...and we've got a big giant ocean right next to us.
            The City of Huntington Beach is kicking around the idea of a desalination plant.
            (I don't agree with their choice of a vendor with a troublesome history, but I can easily imagine a point in the near future when the notion of such a facility can be shown to have considerable merit.)

            Some cities are already turning black water (sewage) into potable water.
            Now, they've stopped 1 step short and are only using that to e.g. water golf courses and parks.

            ...and when it rains here, the big concrete ditches that we call rivers are just swollen with water flow--and most of that goes right out to the sea.

            -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

      • (Score: 4, Informative) by TheRaven on Monday February 12, @11:38AM (2 children)

        by TheRaven (270) on Monday February 12, @11:38AM (#636640) Journal

        Their government is bankrupt, and constantly getting bailouts from everyone else.

        You remember the article a couple of days ago about people on the right being more likely to repeat fake news without engaging in any critical thinking? Thanks for providing a case study.

        --
        sudo mod me up
    • (Score: 2, Informative) by khallow on Sunday February 11, @10:44PM (1 child)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11, @10:44PM (#636471) Journal

      (1) the principal retains pervasive control over the operation as a whole

      Uber doesn't control when or how much drivers work, or who else (like Lyft) that they solicit contract work for, doesn't control drivers' vehicles or their behavior, and doesn't control ratings of passengers. It takes a lot more than just running an app to get people from point A to point B. While others have noted that Uber retains a degree of overall control of the operation, that control doesn't extend to control over their drivers' operations, including whether or not they work for other ride hailing services at the same time.

      (2) the worker's duties are an integral part of the operation,

      As others have noted, the worker can decide on the spur of the moment to just stop driving for Uber without notifying Uber, and this is a planned feature of the relationship.

      (3) the nature of the work makes detailed control unnecessary.

      Work is issued by Uber at a high level of detail.

      While I see the point of your post, something similar can be said of most contract work for a business. Overall control is not pervasive control. IF you getting paid, you're doing something important though not necessarily integral. And detailed control is kind of opposite of how a lot of contract work goes (you contract out precisely because you don't want detailed control over work that you don't understand, for example).

      • (Score: 1) by Sulla on Monday February 12, @03:31AM

        by Sulla (5173) on Monday February 12, @03:31AM (#636560) Journal

        California's laws as to what determines employee vs contractor seem to indicate less people would be employees than the fed? Or maybe the other way around? If I recall the feds stipulation is that if the company controls when you show up for work, where you show up for work, and how long you work, you are an employee. I guess calis rule is pretty much the same but said different..

        To me Uber is pretty clearly not an employer, the drivers are contractors that control their own schedule. Uber exists as a middleman to link people who want to go from place to place and drivers.

        --
        I post without karma bonus, you should too
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by bradley13 on Sunday February 11, @07:57PM (2 children)

    by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 11, @07:57PM (#636421) Homepage Journal

    People sign up to do work for these companies. Some people apparently do well, others less so. It doesn't matter - no one forces them to do the work. If they find it's not worth their time, or - in the worst case - they are even losing money? Then stop, and go do something else.

    Key strawman arguments about how there's no other work to be had. Nonsense. If you're reliable, as in you show up to work on time, don't call in sick when you're "not feeling it", and you actually work when you're on the clock, then you can get and hold a job.

    This guy is the poster child for trying to have your cake and eat it too. He signs up for gigs, then blows them off. He wants to claim he's actually an employee? If he were an employee, he would have been fired. I'm glad the court shot him down. I wish his attorney would be disciplined for filing a stupid lawsuit.

    --
    Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, @09:29PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, @09:29PM (#636451)

      Shhh, baby, shhhhhhhhhhhhhh! It's all okay now, because my fetid-as-fuck cock has just breached your fecal cervix. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Your nasty, rancid, diseased rectum belongs to me now, and soon you will join it! Get pregnant! Get pregnant! Get pregnant, you filthy sow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, @01:59AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, @01:59AM (#636529)

      Yeah, that individual got the proper verdict.

      If, however, this decision is broadly applied to gig workers who work for only 1 company and aren't slackers, that would be a travesty.

      Bad cases make for bad case law.

      -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, @09:35PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, @09:35PM (#636453)

    Do you really want random gig workers handling your food with nobody else around? A lot of small restaurants have their own delivery people who are at least accountable to the boss there.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by NotSanguine on Monday February 12, @12:08AM

      by NotSanguine (285) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 12, @12:08AM (#636498) Homepage Journal

      Do you really want random gig workers handling your food with nobody else around? A lot of small restaurants have their own delivery people who are at least accountable to the boss there.

      Where I live, GrubHub/Seamless people doing the deliveries is the exception rather than the rule.

      I've deduced that if you aren't allowed to tip in cash, the delivery person is likely a Grubhubber. Which sucks even more for them, given how tips recorded on credit/debit cards are generally abused by employers, as was discussed at length here [soylentnews.org].

      --
      No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr
  • (Score: 2) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Monday February 12, @06:40PM

    - between the consultant and client, or employee of manager.

    There a number of factors that go into the distinction.

    If your employer sets your working hours then you're an employee.

    If you bear the financial risk of the project then you're a consultant.

    If the employer tells you how to perform your work you are an employee.

    If you supply your own equipment then you're a consultant.

    There are some other factors.

    Note that this is just the IRS' rules. There are other federal and state agencies that care about knowing which relationship you have.

    --
    127.0.0.1 www.hosted-pixel.com # I Am Absolutely Serious
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