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Another win was secured for Uber drivers in O'Connor et al v. Uber Technologies Inc. as the Ninth Circuit denied the company's request to appeal the recent order approving the class certification in a lawsuit by drivers who wished to be categorized as employees.
The ruling means that drivers could potentially be relieved of gas and maintenance costs of their vehicles which they currently pay for themselves, according to Reuters. The final outcome of the Uber controversy will not only impact the business model of Uber, but other companies within the sharing economy as well.
Earlier in September, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco allowed Uber plaintiffs to form a class and sue on the legal issue of whether or not they qualified as employees under the state's relevant laws. The ruling means that Chen will hear the case, which is scheduled for June 2016.
What the ruling does not preclude is Uber's potential appeal of a ruling that would be disfavorable to them in Chen's court.
Attorneys for Uber have insisted that Uber drivers are contractors because they conduct their work "with complete flexibility and control," in the words of Theodore Boutrous. But Uber drivers feel that the level of control and flexibility Boutrous has described as been overhyped and feel that they work and behave more like employees rather than independent contractors.
Shannon-Liss Riordan, a Boston employment rights lawyer, represents the plaintiff-drivers. She has been making quite a splash in the legal world lately as she was also the force behind the Lyft and the recent lawsuit against Google, where plaintiffs alleged facts similar to those in Uber. Her strategy has worked well and is making companies tremble. With a class action, plaintiffs typically have more leverage over their employers.
Under Chen's order, not all Uber drivers can sue: only those who specifically opted out of arbitration by written agreement are eligible to bring suit. Uber claims that under this rubric, only a small number of potential drivers out of some 160,000 may bring suit.
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