An Uber Eats driver claims he was misclassified by Uber Technologies, Inc. as an independent contractor and denied certain job protections such as minimum and overtime wages, reimbursement for business expenses, and sick leave.
Alleging violations of the California Labor Code, the 14-page lawsuit argues that Uber Eats food delivery drivers more closely resemble employees given the nature of their work and the level of control the defendant exercises over them. According to the case, the plaintiff and other drivers provide a service within Uber Eats’ “usual course of business”—i.e., supplying on-demand meals to its customers—which the suit says is a characteristic of an employee as defined by law. Contractors, on the other hand, must provide a service outside a company’s normal business operations in order to be classified as such, the complaint states.
“Uber Eats holds itself out as a food delivery service, and it generates revenue primarily from customers paying for the very food delivery services that its delivery drives [sic] provide,” the complaint states. “Without delivery drivers to provide the food delivery, Uber Eats would not exist.”
The case goes on to allege that Uber Eats requires its drivers to adhere to “a litany of policies and rules” designed to control their performance.
The lawsuit further argues that Uber Eats delivery drivers “are not typically engaged in their own transportation business,” stressing that drivers:
are assigned to customers and cannot be specifically requested;
may be suspended or terminated at Uber’s “sole discretion” based on customer feedback;
are not required to possess any special skills beyond those required to obtain a driver’s license;
work for Uber Eats for “an indefinite amount of time”;
rely on Uber Eats to provide the “primary instrumentality”—i.e., Uber Eats’ software—required to perform services for the company;
cannot negotiate pay rates, which are solely determined by Uber Eats;
may have their income reduced without being consulted based on Uber Eats’ promotions; and
are monitored by Uber Eats and may be suspended or terminated if they do not accept enough deliveries, cancel too many deliveries, do not maintain high customer satisfaction ratings, or engage in other conduct determined by Uber Eats to be grounds for suspension or termination.
According to the case, Uber Eats drivers are not reimbursed for business expenses, including vehicle maintenance, gas, insurance, and phone and data costs, because of their alleged misclassification as independent contractors. Moreover, the defendant fails to assure that drivers are paid proper minimum and overtime wages and provided with itemized wage statements in accordance with California law, the lawsuit alleges. Further still, the case claims drivers do not accrue sick days at a rate of at least one hour per 30 hours worked as provided by state law.
The case argues that the defendant’s conduct violates Assembly Bill 5, a law meant to codify a California Supreme Court decision that set forth a three-prong test by which employers could determine whether their workers could be classified as independent contractors. According to the case, Uber Eats cannot prove that its delivery drivers perform services outside its usual course of business as required by the so-called “ABC test.” Though the defendant attempted to obtain a “carve-out” exemption from the law, the case says the statute was specifically intended to cover “gig economy” companies such as Uber.
“Uber’s actions in opposing the law – and its expressed concern that the law would have a major impact on its business – are an acknowledgment that this law requires it to classify its drivers as employees and provide employees with the protection of the California Labor Code,” the complaint states.
The plaintiff, who began working for Uber Eats in January 2020, looks to represent all Uber Eats drivers who have worked in California.
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