Federal court holds that Uber drivers are independent contractors
April 12, 2018
[JURIST] A federal judge on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania [official website] on Thursday has found [opinion, PDF] that Uber limousine drivers are independent contractors and not employees for the purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) [materials] and similar Pennsylvania state laws.
The plaintiffs in the matter were three drivers for UberBLACK, the company’s limousine service, who brought claims for violations of the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the FLSA and comparable state legislation. In response, Uber filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that these provisions did not apply to them as they did not qualify as “employees” under these laws. In making their arguments, Uber portrayed the plaintiffs ” as entrepreneurial business-owners who use UberBlack as a means of acquiring trip requests, with their primary competition coming from other Limousine-for-hire companies.” The judge sided with Uber and granted their motion, entering judgment in favor of Uber as a matter of law.
In making its ruling, the judge examined the activities of the drivers, finding that:
Uber places no restrictions on drivers’ ability to engage in personal activities while Online, and Plaintiffs here, in fact, engaged in a range of personal activities while Online. The undisputed facts in the record reflect that, while Online, Plaintiffs, inter alia, accepted rides from private clients, slept, did personal errands, smoked cigarettes, took personal phone calls, rejected trips because they were tired, and conducted business for their independent transportation companies . . . . Drivers also sometimes forget to go offline, such that they remain in the Online mode on the Uber App despite having no intention of completing trips. . . . Drivers are allowed to use software applications other than the Uber App and to provide transportation services to others “outside of” the Uber App.
The judge then determined that, when looking at the “totality of the circumstances” demonstrated that “UberBLACK drivers can work as little or as much as they want — the hallmark of a lack of [the traditional relationship] with an alleged employer — [a] factor weigh[ing] heavily in favor of Plaintiffs’ independent contractor status.”