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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday April 15, @08:16PM   Printer-friendly
from the independent-employees dept.

A U.S. judge in Philadelphia has ruled that limousine drivers for Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] are independent contractors and not the company’s employees under federal law, the first ruling of its kind on a crucial issue for the ride-hailing company.

U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson on Wednesday said San Francisco-based Uber does not exert enough control over drivers for its limo service, UberBLACK, to be considered their employer under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The drivers work when they want to and are free to nap, run personal errands, or smoke cigarettes in between rides, Baylson said.

The legal classification of workers has been a major issue for “gig economy” companies that rely on independent contractors. Uber, in particular, has been hit with dozens of lawsuits in recent years claiming that its drivers are employees and are entitled to minimum wage, overtime, and other legal protections not afforded to contractors.

An Uber spokeswoman said the company is pleased with the decision.

Jeremy Abay, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he would appeal the ruling to the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The 3rd Circuit would be the first federal appeals court to consider whether Uber drivers are properly classified as independent contractors.

[...] The case is Razak v. Uber Technologies Inc, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, No. 2:16-cv-00573.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by leftover on Sunday April 15, @08:23PM (6 children)

    by leftover (2448) on Sunday April 15, @08:23PM (#667375)

    So the drivers are not employees and the drivers own their vehicles. Doesn't this mean that Uber is nothing more than a fucking smartphone app? Intrinsic market value is $1.

    Bent, folded, spindled, and mutilated.
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 15, @08:32PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 15, @08:32PM (#667379)

      Start your own ride-hailing app. Halve the fees paid by drivers and passengers compared to Uber and Lyft. I'll wait for your multi-billion dollar valuation.

      • (Score: 5, Funny) by wonkey_monkey on Sunday April 15, @10:20PM

        by wonkey_monkey (279) on Sunday April 15, @10:20PM (#667403) Homepage

        I'm more of an ideas guy, so maybe you could, like, write the app for me? It'd be great exposure.

        systemd is Roko's Basilisk
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 15, @10:12PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 15, @10:12PM (#667399)

      Doesn't this mean that Uber is nothing more than a fucking smartphone app?

      Yes, a non-free proprietary user-subjugating smartphone app that conducts surveillance on its useds. The mindless masses sure do love these disservices; I can only conclude that almost everyone is a hardcore masochist.

    • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 16, @07:46PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 16, @07:46PM (#667771)

      And the New York Stock Exchange is just a store.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by TaxiCabJesus on Monday April 16, @02:19AM

    by TaxiCabJesus (6455) on Monday April 16, @02:19AM (#667462)

    When I was in the game 3 years ago, Uber Black drivers were required to supply commercial insurance and fully comply with the state's laws pertaining to vehicles for hire. I had a passenger who couldn't swing it as a taxi driver, but liked driving for Uber. He'd purchased the cheapest black BMW that would qualify for Uber Black, and whined about how much commercial insurance was going to cost him.

    Uber X drivers just supplied the vehicle. Uber provided "insurance" ("trust us you're covered"), and ran interference so their Uber-X drivers could mostly ignore the state's minimal regulations pertaining to vehicles for hire.

    In January 2015 newly-elected Governor Ducey threw us taxi drivers under the bus. The NFL's Superbowl was in Glendale, Arizona that month...

    tl/dr: Uber Black drivers are totally different than Uber-X, because they are fully capable of legally transporting people around without Uber's assistance. Uber-X drivers freelance too (take people on paid trips that are not facilitated by their App), but they do so at their own risk - they're probably not going to get picked up by a state regulator, but personal insurance policies don't cover transportation...

  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 16, @06:46AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 16, @06:46AM (#667535)

    The drivers work when they want to and are free to nap, run personal errands, or smoke cigarettes in between rides, Baylson said.

    *That* is enough to be classified as an independent contractor in the USA?? Seriously????

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 16, @01:18PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 16, @01:18PM (#667610)

      I think so. Basically, an "employee" is renting out his time in pre-arranged blocks: he has to show up at 8AM, and has to work continuously until 5PM, except for a 1-hour lunch break and 2 15-minute breaks, for instance. (Employers can have different start/stop times and policies on lunch, but they have to be consistent, and a certain number of breaks are required by law.) There's no such thing as an "employee" who can just show up whenever he wants, take off whenever he wants, etc., except for "salaried" ("exempt") employees, which drivers are not. Basically, I think you can say this is an artifact of how employment law evolved in this country, mainly coming from factory work in the industrial age.

      The IRS has a bunch of rules about what constitutes an "employee" vs. an "independent contractor": regular hours, having your work closely managed and being required to perform work ordered by your supervisor, etc. The anti-Uber people have largely ignored this because they don't like cab drivers having the competition, but it's true: Uber/Lyft drivers do NOT follow regular hours the way cab drivers do, and they can and frequently do work for both companies, taking passengers from either one (not at the same time though). It simply is not like the way cab drivers work.

      Honestly, what this to me shows is that employment law in this country desperately needs an update, to eliminate the stupid assumption that everyone is a factory worker. It's too easy for employers to get out of having to treat employees a certain way (like providing benefits) by calling them "independent contractors". Flexibility in work is a good thing, but it shouldn't also mean employees get shortchanged compared to employees in other industries where the work is more regular. Of course, one of the really major problems in this country is the idea that health insurance should be a benefit paid (at least partly) by your employer, instead of being something you just get for yourself like car insurance or you get from the government as in single-payer nations.

      • (Score: 0, Disagree) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 16, @04:49PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 16, @04:49PM (#667693)

        this whole debate is nonsense. it's obvious as hell when you take a job whether you are an employee or independent contractor. you have to fill out different tax forms. these fucking idiots hired out as contractors and then figured they could sue. people like you whining for more authoritarian regulation are pathetic and dangerous. if you don't think jobs like this are worth a shit or moral then don't fucking contract with these companies! quit trying to make that decision for other people. you just want someone on the chain next to you while you get pulled to hell. if these companies/arrangements are bad, people will eventually figure that out and these companies will go away. Or not, but i'm not going to force my bullshit on you unless you continue to try and corner me with yours. if you don't believe in free market economics gtfo. take your ass to one of the many authoritarian leftist countries all over the world and quit trying to further ruin America.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bziman on Monday April 16, @01:45PM (1 child)

    by bziman (3577) on Monday April 16, @01:45PM (#667618) Homepage

    The best test is if they also drive for Lyft. With both apps running simultaneously. If I tried being "employed" by a rival software company, at the same time as my current job, I'd find myself unemployed quite rapidly.

    Lyft and Uber are much more like dating apps... They link drivers and riders and provide transaction support. Do you think Tinder and Match employ your dates?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 17, @03:48AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 17, @03:48AM (#667939)

      Could have both apps installed but being logged in simultaneously might cause issues:

      In the past, if you didn’t accept enough of the ride requests that you received, Uber would warn you and deactivate your for having a low acceptance rate. As of April 2016, Uber will no longer do this. Instead, Uber will warn you via text and email that you aren’t accepting enough rides, and if you continue to keep a low acceptance rate, they can temporarily lock you out of the app.

      So if you're somehow too busy working for Lyft you might get suspended from Uber. So logout from uber when busy.

      In contrast Lyft doesn't seem to do that, so I'd say Lyft drivers are contractors.

      When giving Lyft rides, you have the right to accept or ignore any ride request. You're always free to decline ride requests you don't want, but declined requests will still count toward your total ride requests when we calculate your acceptance rate. []