Uber and the Class Action Era

Uber in the US recently won a class action brought against it whereby Uber drivers (in California and Massachusetts) claimed they’re actually ‘employees’ not ‘independent contractors’.

The drivers believed they were also entitled to the associated benefits of employees– leave pay, overtime, health & retirement benefits – given they’re told to comply with specifics around when & how they work, and rates of pay for example.

385,000 drivers in the case agreed to not be considered employees in the $130m class action.

We wrote about it here.

And we’ve been monitoring the landscape for Uber here in Australia.

Referring to their drivers as ‘partners’ may no longer wash for Uber, according to workplace law expert, Dr Michael Rawling, from the University of Technology Sydney.

Application of the ‘multi-factor test’, which looks at the entirety of the relationship between worker & employer, may see Uber come unstuck. The test is commonly used by Australian courts to decide whether a worker is independent or is on the company’s books as a staff member.

What’s the difference between the 2?


(Here’s another article we wrote recently about worker classification – it may help!)

For Uber Australia, rumblings are only just starting – not so much from their drivers, but from taxi drivers. In WA, 400 taxi drivers undertook legal action in the Supreme Court claiming the State Government should never have approved the ride-sharing service to operate.

The case was dismissed by Justice Paul Tottle. The response to the ruling from WA’s Transport Minister, Dean Nalder, was positive claiming the planned changes to the on-demand transport sector would create an equal playing field whilst encouraging competition.

Irrespective of a lack of precedents or regulation, it looks like the sector is actually gaining momentum in Australia. GoCatch, Uber’s local competitor (backed by billionaire James Packer and SEEK’s co-founder, Paul Bassat) are pushing ride-sharing prices for consumers down, in a competitive play cross Sydney & Melbourne. Wondering what this will do to the driver’s income? GoCatch charge drivers 12% against Uber’s 20% commission. So not much.

Overall, the innovation and opportunities of the on-demand work era are here to stay. Legal proceedings, or not.

PS: As the author of this post, I’ve been an Uber user (‘rider’) for over 2 years now. And EVERY single driver I’ve asked (that’s most of them) say they love the work, they love the pay, they love the independence.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.