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California Uber Drivers Given the Ok to Proceed With Lawsuit

September 8, 2015

A federal judge gave the green light Tuesday for California Uber drivers to proceed with  their class action lawsuit suing the company for employee benefits. District Court Judge Edward Chen certified a class of plaintiffs that includes “all UberBlack, UberX, and UberSUV drivers who have driven for Uber in the state of California at any time since August 16, 2009”—as many as 160,000 people.

Uber had originally argued that the class action shouldn’t be allowed to proceed because there’s no “typical” Uber driver. The company said that some drivers were trained in person, while others just watched videos.

The judge disagreed. He rejected the argument because none of the differences Uber pointed to were legally relevant—the claims the plaintiffs are making (primarily that Uber misclassified them as contractors instead of employees) are pertinent to every member of the class.

This judge wrote the following in his ruling: “[T]he named Plaintiffs may all be left-handed and drive Hondas, while numerous class members are right-handed and drive Toyotas. But these differences do not demonstrate that the named Plaintiffs are not typical class representatives.”

The drivers are suing for reimbursement of vehicle maintenance, social security tax, and other benefits they would have received if Uber had treated them as employees rather than mere users of an app.

A jury trial will take place sometime in 2016, according to reports.

As this case demonstrates, whether a worker is an “employee” or an “independent contractor” is crucial when it comes to pertinent issues such as pension eligibility, workers’ compensation coverage, wage and hour law, and many other matters. In certain situations, federal law will govern, but the answer to this question is most frequently resolved by looking to state law, especially in areas like unemployment tax liability, workers’ compensation, and state wage and hour requirements.

Florida courts have used a 10-factor test to determine whether an employee is covered by workers’ compensation or is an independent contractor who is not covered. These 10 factors include:

  1. The extent of control which, by the agreement, the business may exercise over the details of the work.
  2. Whether the one employed is engaged in a distinct occupation or business.
  3. Whether the work done in a certain locality is usually done under the direction of the employer or by a specialist without supervision.
  4. The skill required in the particular occupation.
  5. Whether the employer or the worker supplies the instrumentalities (for example: equipment, vehicle, materials), tools, and the place of work for the person doing the work.
  6. The length of time the person is employed.
  7. The method of payment, whether by the time or by the job.
  8. Whether the work is a part of the regular business of the employer.
  9. Whether the parties believe they are creating the relationship of employer and employee.
  10. Whether the hiring party is or is not in business.

Employment violations are rampant throughout businesses in Florida as well as across the U.S. While Florida and federal laws are clear on the rules regarding classifying employees vs. independent contractors, there are still common tricks that employers will use to keep employees from collecting full compensation and benefits. To find out if you have a potential case, please call our Florida Employment Lawyers at Whittel & Melton today at 866-608-5529 or contact us online.