Much is being reported in the media about the decision of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California certifying a class of drivers for the Uber ride service who contended that they were employees, not independent contractors. O’Connor v. Uber Technologies, Inc., Case No. C-13-3826 EMC (September 1, 2015). The case is significant for its display of the inherent litigation risk for any new business model and for its impact on one of the most prominent players in the shared economy, but it is otherwise likely too early to assess its impact at this stage.
The O’Connor case was brought under California law ostensibly on behalf of 160,000 California Uber drivers for the period August 16, 2009, to the present. The plaintiffs contended that they were misclassified as independent contractors and entitled to recover under the California Labor Code as a result. Among their claims was one that they should have been given “tips” allegedly received by the company through its fee structure with passengers. Continue Reading