Super Cali goes ballistic – Uber says it's bogus (even though its contract is something quite atrocious)

Driver must be treated as employee, says labor commish


A California labor commission has ruled that an Uber driver has won the right to be treated as an employee of the taxi app upstart, rather than as a contractor.

The decision threatens to disrupt the disruptive tech biz: moneybags Uber keeps its costs fantastically low by treating its drivers as freelancers, meaning they have to personally foot the bills for bridge tolls, repairs, gas, and so on, after ferrying passengers around town.

Today's ruling by the commission, handed down in San Francisco, may turn that business model on its head, by forcing Uber to cover its drivers' expenses. That could cause Uber's costs to soar, and force the biz to dump thousands of cabbies from its service to balance the books.

Where it all started

Barbara Berwick, who used Uber's app to offer a taxi service in the Bay Area, sued the company to claw back mileage costs and bridge tolls that Uber wouldn't give her. The biz argued she was a contractor, and thus it was not subject to liability.

However, the commission decided that Uber maintains enough control over when and how its drivers work that it should be considered a primary employer and not just a logistics firm for freelancers.

"In other words, there is a presumption of employment," Ellen Kennedy, a deputy labor commissioner, said in her ruling.

"The party seeking to avoid liability has the burden of proving that persons whose services he has employed are independent contractors rather than employees."

The decision orders Uber (valued at $50bn) to cough up $4,152 to Berwick, and it could set a precedent, allowing drivers to extract extra dosh from the upstart should the cabbies seek refunds from the dial-a-car service.

Response

Uber remains defiant. The smartphone app company said the order will not hit its operations, and it can appeal the decision.

"The California Labor Commission’s ruling is non-binding and applies to a single driver. Indeed it is contrary to a previous ruling by the same commission, which concluded in 2012 that the driver ‘performed services as an independent contractor, and not as a bona fide employee," Uber said in a statement.

"Five other states have also come to the same conclusion. It’s important to remember that the number one reason drivers choose to use Uber is because they have complete flexibility and control. The majority of them can and do choose to earn their living from multiple sources, including other ride sharing companies."

Separately, a class-action lawsuit was filed several months ago in California against Uber by drivers seeking reimbursement for their milage and repair costs. They also want to be treated as employees, rather than contractors, so today's decision will be a boon for them.

Away from San Francisco, where Uber is headquartered, the car-hire service was dealt a setback by the New York Police this month. The New York Post reports that 496 cars were taken off the streets of NYC over charges of running illegal livery cars through Uber. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021