California state Uber drivers won an important milestone in a United States District Court today, according to reports from CNBC. Edward Chen, the U.S. District Court judge, ruled that Uber drivers may proceed with a class action lawsuit that will represent a majority of Uber drivers in the state.
The decision is a major blow to Uber, who has consistently argued that drivers are independent contractors, and built its business model and cost structure around the premise. The decision may be the first in a long line, setting precedent for Uber drivers in other states to begin similar actions.
The Mercury News reports that the move may affect up to 160,000 Uber drivers in the state of California, and that it has the potential to influence a similar class action brought by drivers against Uber competitor Lyft.
Uber made a statement that the company plans to file an appeal in the 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We’ll most likely appeal the decision as partners use Uber on their own terms, and there really is no typical driver — the key question at issue.”
Uber has emphazised that drivers are free to come and go as they please and work as many hours as they want. Uber also notes that many drivers work for the three popular United States ride-sharing services, Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar, at the same time.
While Uber has often attempted to distance itself from the traditional taxi business, and has been the target of protests by taxi drivers worldwide, it is not alone in being the subject of judicial intervention. Similar to the Uber ruling, the Palo Alto Patch reported on a United States District Court ruling against Stanford Yellow Taxi Cab that drivers must be treated as employees.
United States Department of Labor representative Janet Herold reported on how Stanford taxi drivers were required to work 12-hour shifts, wear uniforms, and sit unpaid for long periods of time, very similar to Uber drivers. Herold also noted that Stanford drivers faced retaliation from the employer for cooperating with labor officials.
In June, the California state labor commission ruled in favor of an Uber driver in a non-precedent setting case, granting that the driver was an employee and that Uber is responsible for compensating them for mileage and other expenses.
United States District Court Judge Chen set some restrictions on the Uber drivers’ status as group, based on “lack of reimbursement” for expenses. Issues which prompted the court to allow the Uber case to move forward include scheduling, pay, gratuities, worker ratings, and firings.
[Photo Illustration by David Ramos/Getty Images]