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Uber Employment Law Issues

Posted July 2016 by S. Ward Heinrichs
Uber Employment Law Issues

Uber is a company that provides consumer transportation and jobs. The founders developed the idea in Paris, France. One snowy evening in 2008, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp could not find a cab. They experienced how the market limited their ability to get a ride. They decided that they could fill a market void through a smart phone app. Uber and its technology have since made it far easier and, in many cases, cheaper to get transportation in hundreds of cities throughout the world.

Independent Contractors or Employees?
Uber provides its technology to drivers who want to make money from people who need a ride or who want to send things to a specific destination. The drivers signed agreements that designated them as independent contractors. Recently, Uber drivers have filed several suits against Uber, claiming that they are employees, not independent contractors.
The largest of those cases is in a California Federal Court and was settled for One Hundred Million dollars. The drivers claim that they were employees who should have received tips collected by Uber. They also claimed that Uber should have covered car maintenance costs and other business expenses that benefitted Uber. The Court preliminarily approved the settlement but has not yet given final approval. Some of the drivers have filed challenges to the settlement.

One thing the challengers do not like about the settlement is it declares that the drivers will remain as independent contractors. The challengers have a point. How can they be independent contractors when Uber has agreed to pay them tips and business costs? Only employees are entitled to such things. Apparently, the California court case will not make a final determination about whether Uber drivers are employees or independent contractors.

How Safe is Uber?
Uber uses a company called Checkr, Inc. to do background checks. It matches addresses of the drivers to convictions associated with those addresses. Taxi companies say that Uber’s background checks are not as safe as their checks. Typically, they use checks based on FBI and state fingerprint data bases. Uber stopped its service in Austin Texas because the city failed to pass a voter proposition that would have rescinded a requirement that Uber and other ride hailing companies use fingerprint background checks. Fingerprint checks are more expensive.

Governments have criticized Uber for using its App to track the movements of customers. Apparently, some journalists and politicians have been tracked and the app also appears to have the ability to track the movements of anyone.
Many states and municipalities do not require Uber cars to pass safety inspections. In contrast, South Carolina requires Uber drivers to pass vehicle safety inspections, and California passed a new law requiring Uber to register its drivers with the DMV pull-notice system. The pull-notice system allows the DMV to check the driving records of Uber drivers, as it traditionally has done for taxi drivers.

Unfair Competition?
Taxi drivers have sued Uber for not competing fairly and for not following rules that govern taxi companies. Municipalities and foreign countries have declared that Uber does not always follow laws that govern them and like services. In some cases, Uber has been banned.

S. Ward Heinrichs, Esq.
Employment Law Office of Ward Heinrichs
4565 Ruffner Street, Suite 207
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 408-7543 (fax)

Employment Law Office of WARD HEINRICHS

4565 Ruffner St. Suite 207 San Diego 92111


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