The sharing or gig economy has introduced a new management paradigm for companies, more flexible schedules for workers, and a greater level of convenience and accountability to consumers. While there are many supporters of this new economy, the individuals providing the services are caught in an undefined space – are they employees or independent contractors?
O’Connor v. Uber Technologies, Inc. is an important (and believed to be the leading) case that aims to answer that question. But before doing so, the court – located in the Northern District of California – first had to determine whether the case could proceed as a class action; that is, whether “the drivers’ working relationships with Uber [are] sufficiently similar” such that if Uber did misclassify the working relationship, it could be held liable as to each of its drivers.
The district court answered this preliminary question in the affirmative. Uber petitioned the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to review the decision, but the 9th Circuit declined, thereby leaving the lower court’s decision intact. Short of a settlement, a jury will now decide whether Uber classified its drivers properly.