UBER IN TROUBLE? A thousand California drivers are seeking court permission for a class action to sue ride-hailing company Uber for millions off dollars. Image: AFP / Paul Richards
SAN FRANCISCO, California - Uber argued on Thursday (July 9 2015) that a law suit filed by its drivers should not proceed as a class action that could cost it millions of dollar.
The car service cited statements of support from hundreds of other Uber drivers in a case that could decide whether they are independent contractors - or employees.
Three drivers are suing Uber in a San Francisco federal court. The say they are employees and entitled to reimbursement for expenses, including fuel and vehicle maintenance, for which they pay themselves. If allowed as a class action, the suit could cover more than 160 000 drivers in California.
The outcome of this broader legal battle could reshape the sharing economy as companies say the contractor model allows for flexibility that many see as important to their success. An ultimate finding that drivers are employees could raise Uber's costs beyond the suits' scope and force it to pay social security contributions, workers' compensation, and unemployment insurance.
In court on Thursday Uber filed written statements from more than 400 drivers supporting the company. At least two drivers said that if the cour decided they were Uber employees they would not be able to work for multiple ride services.
Uber argued that its drivers "have little or nothing in common" because each differed significantly in the way they engaged with the company. Some hired sub-contractors while others ran their own transport companiy - "those differences make the case unmanageable to proceed as a single class-action".
Shannon Liss-Riordan, a lawyer the drivers, said it was "not surprising or relevant" that Uber received support from several hundred drivers. She said: "More than 1000 drivers have contacted our firm, unhappy with how Uber has treated them."
In previous court filings the drivers argued that Uber exercised enough control over its drivers, including the ability to terminate them, for them to be considered employees. That legal similarity should, their laywers said, be enough for the case to move forward as a class action.