I’ve been covering the ongoing Uber litigation in California because there has been intense interest in how the judicial system is going to deal with the issue of whether gig workers are independent contractors or employees.
To my knowledge there have yet to be any WCAB panel decisions on this issue regarding gig economy companies. If blog readers are aware of WCAB trial decisions regarding employment at gig employer companies, please send them to me.
The Federal District Court has rejected a proposed settlement of some of the federal class action claims.
Meanwhile, Uber had claimed that arbitration agreements preclude the class actions that have been filed by Uber drivers, and that the various claims made are subject to arbitration.
Uber has now won that argument at the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The Federal District Court judge had found that a 2013 and 2014 driver agreement required by Uber were not clear and unmistakeable and further were unenforceable because they were unconscionable. The 9th Circuit reversed.
Those 2013 and 2014 Uber agreements require arbitration, so it appears that the majority of the Uber drivers claims will go to arbitration.
The lone exception is that some drivers signed a version of the agreement with a California Public Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claim waiver. The court notes that
“under the terms of the agreement Gillette signed, the PAGA waiver should be severed from the arbitration agreement and Gillette’s PAGA claim may proceed in court on a representative basis.”
This would appear to knock out the class action claims of many of the drivers, but to allow it to proceed for a smaller number of drivers.
While appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is possible, I would expect the high court to decline to hear this case.
Less clear is what all of this means for a determination on the merits as to whether Uber drivers are employees or independent contractors, as well as the implications for workers’ comp claims they may want to file.
Here is the 9th Circuit ruling in Mohamed v. Uber Technologies: