By Logan Quirk
A Smartphone can really do a lot for you. It can facilitate a range of different communication needs, it can provide you with entertainment and with the right apps, it can allow you access to a range of different services that you may need when you are on the go. One app-based service that has been popular in California is the ride-hailing service known as Uber.
On the face, Uber sounds like a great idea. A person needs a ride, they pull out their phone, access the Uber app, arrange for a car and a driver that works on the other end of the service takes the fare and comes to pick them up. How could anything go wrong?
Well, judging by all of the lawsuits that have been filed in connection with the service, it seems that a lot of things can go wrong.
Currently, the big battle that Uber is facing is with the drivers that actually make the service work. The issue that has arisen in these claims is whether an Uber driver is an independent contractor or if they are actually employees of the site.
The most recent development in this story is a ruling by a California judge that the case may move forward as a class action. The case in question is on behalf of Uber drivers that contracted with the service directly and not as an employee of another company like a taxi service.
This lawsuit is largely based on a ruling from California Labor Commission earlier this year. An Uber driver from San Francisco filed a complaint against the service for the reimbursement of expenses and unpaid wages. The labor board ruled in favor of the driver and Uber is currently appealing the decision.
The idea behind these lawsuits is that Uber is being a little loose with the truth when they represent themselves as nothing more than a software provider that helps potential passengers to connect with independent drivers. In short, the Labor Commission found that the level of involvement that Uber has over the practices of drivers and the financial transactions is more like that of an employer than something that is just a simple means to connect party A and party B.
It is obviously a great benefit to Uber to keep their drivers categorized as independent contractors. A switch to making them employees could put them on the hook for operating expenses that are currently the burden of the drivers and it could cost them in certain expenses, like taxes and insurance, that come with having actual employees.
As the case moves forward, this could have a major impact on the Uber business model and other online services that operate in a similar fashion. The attorney for the Uber drivers wants to bring the case nationwide believing that drivers are being shortchanged in regard to many of the benefits that would come with being classified as employees instead of independent contractors.