A Philadelphia judge ruled this week that limousine drivers at Uber Technologies are not employees but independent contractors under federal law, which is the first ruling of this kind on an important issue for the company.
The judge said on Wednesday that Uber, which is based in San Francisco, does not hold enough control over the drivers for its service of limos known as UberBLACK, to be their employer under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The judge said that drivers work the hours they want and can run errands of a personal nature, nap or even smoke between their rides.
Classification of employees at the legal level has been a huge issue for companies that count on independent contractors such as Uber. The ride-hailing company has been sued dozens of times of recent in suits that claim Uber drivers are not independent contractors but employees and therefore entitled to received minimum wage, overtime, as well as other protections under the law not afforded to an independent contractor.
A spokesperson for Uber said the company was pleased with the judge’s ruling.
One of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs said he would be appealing the ruling.
Many cases that are filed against Uber are sent to arbitration. However, the plaintiffs in this case were amongst the minority of drivers that had opted not to sign an agreement for arbitrations with Uber.
In 2017, an appeals court in the state of Florida said that drivers at Uber are not employees under the law in Florida, but state agencies in New York and California said they were employees under the state law of those two states.
In his ruling this week, the judge said he is the first judge that ruled on classifying drivers at Uber under federal law. The ruling comes only two months after a judge ruled in San Francisco that GrubHub food delivery workers were not employees at the company.
The case involving GrubHub was the first of that type against what they call a ‘gig economy company” that went to trial.
The lawsuit this week was filed back in February of 2016 and plaintiffs said that Uber has failed to pay minimum wage as well as overtime and that violated the Fair Labor Standard Act, which applies only to employees.
Plaintiffs in the case were seeking to represent all Uber drivers in the UberBLACK limousine service in Philadelphia.