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Uber Drivers Win Partial Class Status in Misclassification Suit

Jan. 26, 2021, 10:06 PM

More than 4,800 Uber drivers may proceed as a class on their claim that they were misclassified as independent contractors rather than employees under California law but not on their related minimum wage, overtime, and sick-pay claims, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled Tuesday.

Whether Uber misclassified these drivers under California’s ABC test can be mostly resolved on a classwide basis, Judge Edward M. Chen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said. He partially granted the class certification motion on that threshold issue, as well as the expense reimbursement and wage-statement claims.

Parts A and B of that test ask if the drivers are free from Uber’s control when performing their work and if their work is outside the course of Uber’s normal business. Those questions don’t require any individualized inquiries, the court said. Determining whether the drivers have “sufficient flexibility” under part A can be resolved by examining the terms of Uber’s standard contract, which apply to all drivers, and courts have consistently ruled that Uber and the drivers are “both in the business of transportation” under part B.

Part C, which asks if the drivers are engaged in independently established businesses, presents some individualized issues, but it doesn’t matter because Uber has to satisfy all three parts of the ABC test to prove it properly classified the drivers as contractors, the court said.

But it’s impossible to determine the wage- and sick-pay claims without delving into individualized inquiries because the drivers insist they should be paid for the time they spent waiting to accept rides and should be counted toward their leave, instead of limiting their claims to their driving time, the court said. Determining if this “on call” time is compensable would require the court to assess if each driver engaged in any personal activities while waiting for a ride request.

The drivers filed a consolidated class action complaint in April, alleging that Uber’s misclassification resulted in multiple wage-and-hour violations of California law.

Lichten & Liss-Riordan PC represents the proposed class. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP represents Uber Technologies Inc.

The case is James v. Uber Techs. Inc., N.D. Cal., No. 3:19-cv-06462, 1/26/21

To contact the reporter on this story: Kathleen Dailey at kdailey@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Peggy Aulino at maulino@bloomberglaw.com

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