Uber drivers have scored a tentative victory in a legal battle with the company to be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. According to a report in the New York Times, a federal court in North Carolina has given conditional certification to a class-action lawsuit brought by several Uber drivers under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Plaintiffs who are part of this class action lawsuit can now seek out about 18,000 drivers who opted out of arbitration in their contracts with the company.
Uber has more than 600,000 drivers in the United States. This ruling will now allow drivers across the country to band together to challenge Uber’s misclassification of their jobs. Being classified as contractors rather than employees prevents these drivers from getting paid a minimum wage and overtime, which is required by federal law. The company has expressed disappointment over this court decision.
Dispute Over Uber Drivers’ Status
Since Uber and ridshare services have been gaining popularity with the American public, the role of its drivers has been murky and contentious. Many drivers feel they are trapped by Uber’s rules and demands and that they have virtually no protections that traditional employees enjoy. A 2013 California class-action lawsuit suffered a setback in September when an appeals court decided that Uber drivers must go to arbitration rather than court to settle claims. A significant settlement now appears unlikely in the California case.
While this recent court decision offers a ray of hope to Uber drivers in North Carolina, there is still a long road ahead. To get class action status, they only needed to show that there were other employees similar to themselves. Uber has said it’s going to push hard to decertify the case.
The drivers who opted out of arbitration are in an unusual position. Arbitration is a secretive process, which is often more advantageous to the employer. Few companies provide opportunities to employees to opt out of arbitration clauses. These clauses have quashed dozens of class action cases before they could gain any momentum.
The Benefits of Class Actions
Class action lawsuits give normal individuals who generally are at a disadvantage an opportunity to pursue and secure justice. In this particular case, Uber is a powerful corporation, which has attorneys and immense resources at its disposal. However, one driver or a few drivers who barely make minimum wage, hardly have any hope of succeeding in a lawsuit on their own. A class action lawsuit allows them to band together and fight for justice. As California class action lawyers, we hope they get the justice and compensation they rightfully deserve.