Uber has to provide names and contact information for a nationwide class of drivers who may be eligible to join a lawsuit that says the company misclassified them as independent contractors.
The company faces a lawsuit by 19 drivers in 11 states who say it owes minimum wage, overtime, and expense reimbursement that they didn’t receive as a result of being misclassified as independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Paul Maslo, a lawyer for the drivers, said he anticipates Uber will turn over information for about 19,000 drivers who may be eligible to join. That includes drivers anywhere in the country who drove for Uber during the three-year period filing the lawsuit and opted out of an agreement to resolve disputes in arbitration rather than in court.
Judge Catherine C. Eagles of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ordered Uber to provide the information within 14 days of a Feb. 7 order that laid out the form and content for how outreach to potential class members should proceed. In July she conditionally granted their motion to proceed as a collective action, which is a procedure for litigating cases with many plaintiffs that’s similar to a class action.
Providing a list with names and contact information would be a setback for Uber, which typically is tight-lipped about its drivers. In Seattle, for example, it opposed a city order to provide drivers’ names, contact information, and driver’s license numbers to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 117. Uber asked a court for an injunction that would keep it from having to give the information to the union, which qualified under a city ordinance for an opportunity to organize drivers.
Uber Considers Information ‘Trade Secret’
“Uber and its subsidiaries have taken steps to keep this information confidential and have protected the information as a trade secret,” Brooke Steger, Uber’s general manager, Pacific northwest, said in a written declaration the company filed in support of the motion.
If the company’s competitors were to gain access to driver information, they could use it to contact drivers and weaken the relationship between them and the company, she said. The company has released similar lists to service providers “only with extensive privacy and security obligations,” she wrote in the March 8, 2017, declaration.
A judge sided with Uber’s contention and granted a preliminary injunction. But after more consideration, he rejected Uber’s position and ruled for the city. The law remains blocked while an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit proceeds.
There will be safeguards, Maslo said. “Uber does consider it a trade secret and in this case it will be covered by a confidentiality order,” he told Bloomberg Law. “Generally in big litigation I think defendants like Uber are pretty cagey about giving out employee lists with home addresses and phone numbers and emails without some kind of confidentiality,” he said.
Eagles’ order says potential class members will have 90 days to opt into the collective action. After the deadline, the drivers leading the lawsuit and their lawyers will be prohibited from contacting potential class members who don’t opt in.
Uber didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Maslo and Andrew Dressel with Napoli Shkolnik in New York; Paul Dickinson Jr. with Lewis & Roberts PLLC in Charlotte, N.C.; and Brittany Weiner with Imbesi Law PC in New York represent the drivers.
Littler Mendelson attorneys Jerry Walters Jr. and Steven Nigh in Charlotte, Andrew Spurchise in New York, Sophia Behnia in San Francisco, and Robert Pritchard in Pittsburgh, Pa., represent Uber Technologies Inc. and subsidiary Rasier LLC.
The case is Hood v. Uber Techs. Inc., M.D.N.C., No. 1:16-cv-00998, order to produce potential class member information 2/7/18.