Rider service, Uber Technologies, has appealed a California Labor Commission ruling that its on-call drivers are employees, not independent contractors as the company has always claimed.
The appeal was filed Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court.
The Labor Commission decision issued June 3 did reject, however, driver Barbara Berwick’s claim for $4,152 in additional wages saying she presented no evidence to support her claim.
But the ruling on employee status, if it stands, will be much more costly to Uber. if it stands, Uber’s business model as just an app-based ride service would stall and it would be required to pay drivers as employees.
Uber provides mobile-phone applications to link riders to drivers. The company has always maintained that it is a software company, not a taxi service.
“Without drivers such as plaintiff, defendants’ business would not exist,” the Labor Commission wrote.
While Uber holds itself out as no more than a neutral technology platform, the reality is “that defendants are involved in every aspect of the operation,” the ruling states.
The commission found Uber controlled key elements of the classic test of employee versus contractor tests. It controlled the tools drivers use saying cars must be no more than 10 years old, and must meet “industry” standards without saying the company probably meant the taxi industry. And the drivers’ cars and labor are their only assets, no managerial skill could affect profit and loss, the commission said.
Case: Uber Technologies v. Berwick, CGC15-546378