California court rules case for reclassification of Uber drivers premature

The District Court of the Northern District of California has declined to order ride-hailing organisation Uber to treat its drivers as employees, but has further refused to entirely dismiss the claims, leaving open an opportunity for further consideration.

The case, Colopy v Uber Technologies, concerns Thomas Calopy, who worked as an Uber driver since 2012, who has alleged that the organisation misclassified him and other workers as independent contractors, when California law states that they should be employees.

This follows the signing into law in September 2019 of a bill updating and amending various sections of California’s Labor Code and Unemployment Insurance Code, which the plaintiff in Colopy v Uber Technologies stated was specifically intended to cover Uber, which relies heavily on independent contractors working as drivers.

The alleged misclassification is said, in this case, to allow the organisation to require drivers to pay their own business expenses, as well as to avoid paying minimum wage and overtime premiums, and providing itemised wage statements.

In his ruling, US District Judge Edward Chen found that although it would be premature to force Uber to reclassify all drivers, partly due to the currently ill-defined nature of the scope of the enforcable injunction, the plaintiff had pled sufficient facts to support the allegation of misclassification, in addition to making plausible claims as to Uber’s failure to reimburse business expenses.

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Chen agreed to grant Uber’s motion to dismiss the claim that the misclassification was wilfull, and that the organisation had violated the California Labor Code in failing to pay minimum wage and overtime premiums. These last two counts were, however, dismissed with leave for the plaintiff to amend them. 

Uber was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.