Uber gets a win in case about its drivers' work status

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A USA judge in Philadelphia has ruled that limousine drivers for Uber Technologies Inc. are independent contractors and not the company's employees under federal law, the first ruling of its kind on a crucial issue for the ride-hailing company.

U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled Wednesday that UberBLACK drivers are independent contractors, rather than actual employees of the ride share company, and granted Uber summary judgment dismissing the case.

The legal classification of workers has been a major issue for "gig economy" companies that rely on independent contractors. The judge then determined that, when looking at the "totality of the circumstances" demonstrated that "UberBLACK drivers can work as little or as much as they want - the hallmark of a lack of [the traditional relationship] with an alleged employer - [a] factor weigh [ing] heavily in favor of Plaintiffs' independent contractor status".

Jeremy Abay, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he would appeal the ruling to the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Last year, a state appeals court in Florida said Uber's drivers were not its employees under Florida law.

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Uber has faced a lot of scrutiny in recent years for the actions of its former CEO and complaints of sexual harassment, but the ride-sharing company also stood out for its decision to pay hackers $100,000 to mask the 2016 breach and delete the accessed data. But both California and NY have said they are.

The news could have significant ramifications for the rest of the so-called "gig economy" which have been subject to a number of test cases as this new style of working emerges.

That said, California has also ruled that GrubHub delivery drivers aren't employees, so there's still some confusion there.

The Philadelphia lawsuit was filed in February 2016.

Because of those distinctions, Baylson said Uber drivers can't be considered employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act guidelines. In making their arguments, Uber portrayed the plaintiffs " as entrepreneurial business-owners who use UberBlack as a means of acquiring trip requests, with their primary competition coming from other Limousine-for-hire companies".

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