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The lawyer behind the class actions suits of Uber, Lyft, Amazon and Google is on a roll. Judge Edward Chen of the U.S. District Court in California recently decided that the entire group of Uber drivers can join as plaintiffs in one of the most contested misclassification suits in history.
The latest development turns another page in the "misclassification" saga that asks whether Uber drivers are independent contractors or employees entitled to benefits and reimbursement. When the court certified only a small number of drivers as a class, Judge Chen looked to an arbitration clause that was included in their contracts. He concluded that, at the time, the plaintiffs failed to adequately demonstrate that it was in the entire class's best interests to certify the expense reimbursement claim.
Last week, the judge ruled that pretty much any driver (with very few exceptions) can take part in the California class actions, despite the fact that they did not opt out of the arbitration clause. And they'll be able to pursue reimbursement for their driving expenses. So what originally started out as a class of a mere fraction of Uber drivers has now ballooned to a class that ecompasses almost every single driver Uber has registered.
Uber promptly told news outlets that an appeal is already in the works.
Attorney Liss-Riodan is quickly becoming the monster under the bed for shared economy companies who probably wake up in the middle of the night screaming her name. She has successfully bought legal claims on behalf of drivers against some of the most recognizable corporate names. The ruling in Uber will no doubt affect the tone of her remaining suits against the other mega-companies. Even if she makes only one ruling stick in favor of her clients, her name will become emblazoned in temp-worker lore.
Hoping to outsmart Liss-Riodan and the September 9th ruling, Uber has changed its driver agreement. Uber clearly isn't ready to throw in the towel on this debate just yet.
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