A federal judge expanded the class of Uber drivers suing the ride-sharing company over their employment status Wednesday by allowing thousands to claim reimbursement for vehicle and phone-related expenses.
U.S. District Judge Edward Chen on Sept. 1 approved a class of drivers claiming Uber failed to pay them tips paid by riders, who use credit cards to pay for rides.
Nearly 160,000 drivers in California sued Uber in 2013 challenging their status as independent contract workers, claiming they should be classed as employees, entitled to overtime, lunch breaks and expense payments.
Chen agreed first to allow a subclass of drivers to seek tips, based on Uber’s promise to riders that tips are included in pay to drivers.
On Wednesday, he expanded that class to include drivers seeking reimbursement for phone and vehicle-related costs.
“Plaintiffs have made a reasonable judgment call to pursue vehicle-related and phone expenses in this litigation, and have presented some evidence that these expenses will comprise the majority of any recoverable expenses,” he said.
Uber created a software program, or Uber app, that allows people seeking taxi service to link up with drivers, using the same app, who use their personal cars to meet riders and drive them for a fee. Fees go directly to Uber via credit card payments and drivers receive a share of the fee.
The company has been largely unregulated, claiming not to be a taxi service, but simply a software company.
But Chen refused to expand the class to include drivers who drove for Uber under corporate names or third-party transportation companies.
Case: O’Connor v. Uber, No. 13-cv-3826