Uber driver is employee, not contractor: California Labor Commission

Ride-sharing app firm insists it is ‘nothing more than neutral technology platform’, vows appeal

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Uber driver is employee, not contractor: California Labor Commission Uber insists its drivers are not employees because they can choose their own working hours and have the freedom to work for other companies. (Getty Images)
By  Stephen McBride Published  June 18, 2015

California Labor Commission has ruled that an Uber driver is a de facto employee and not a contractor, Reuters reported.

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Uber has said the current decision applies to only one driver and highlighted that five other US states have found its drivers to be contractors and not employees. The California Labor Commission itself, in 2012, ruled that another Uber driver was a contractor. But earlier this year in Florida, a state agency decided Uber drivers are employees.

"The number one reason drivers choose to use Uber is because they have complete flexibility and control," the company said in a statement. "The majority of them can and do choose to earn their living from multiple sources, including other ride sharing companies."

The statement highlighted Uber's core argument as to why its drivers are not employees: flexibility of conditions and working hours, and the freedom to work for other companies. Uber claims it is "nothing more than a neutral technology platform".

But the commission's argument in the most recent case is that Uber controls how drivers operate when they do so on Uber's behalf. The company also monitors the performance of drivers and locks them out of its ride-sharing platform when their passenger ratings fall below a certain threshold.

Although the outcome of the case will only be binding in California, legal experts believe it could play a key role in changing how the company is perceived further afield.

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"Assuming it's upheld on appeal, it may be more than influential," said Thomas Wassel, a partner at Cullen and Dykman. "It will be controlling in California."

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