On June 3, 2015, the California Labor Commission held that Uber Drivers are employees, not independent contractors, in a decision with broad potential implications for Uber’s business model. Uber has consistently claimed that its drivers are independent contractors, and that Uber is merely a “technology platform” and not a transportation provider. Uber driver Barbara Ann Berwick initially filed a claim with the Labor Commissioner’s office on September 16, 2014, with Ms. Berwick claiming that Uber owed her wages, reimbursement of expenses, liquidated damages, and waiting time penalties. Rejecting Uber’s arguments that it is nothing more than a “neutral technological platform” that enables drivers to connect with passengers, the California Labor Commission found that Uber is “involved in every aspect of the operation.” In holding that Ms. Berwick is an Uber employee, the Labor Commission awarded her $4,152.20 for reimbursable expenses and interest.
A group of San Francisco taxi drivers, who have undergone police background checks, drive cars with meters that have regulated rates to prevent consumer gouging, have the statutorily required insurance to protect passengers as well as third parties in the event of an accident, and drive vehicles that have undergone periodic safety checks, all of which is required by law, are suing Uber on the basis it is a transportation company who has gained an unfair advantage by not complying with the law (e.g. not having insurance, not having the expense of inspecting and maintaining vehicles, or complying with other statutory requirements), and taken customers from the cabbies who are following the law. (See San Francisco Superior Court No. CGC 12-526017)
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