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Job classification disputes seem to have Uber unter a cloud

The stars may or not be aligning for that icon of the new economy, Uber. It all seems to depend what side of the country you happen to be on.

Nearly everyone in California is surely aware that the mobile technology ride-hailing service is in the midst of a significant class-action lawsuit. A group of Uber drivers, identified as independent contractors by the company, is seeking employee classification so they can be reimbursed for expenses they incur while on the job. Not surprisingly, Uber is fighting back.

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, state legislatures are moving to pass laws that effectively support Uber’s preferred business model. North Carolina, Arkansas and Indiana have passed measures governing so-called transportation network companies such as Uber, specifying that drivers for them are independent contractors. Similar bills are advancing in Ohio and Florida.

Uber reportedly has been actively lobbying for the laws, though it refuses to confirm that. It does admit that it supports the legislation.

And now another move by Uber is subject of a challenge, with the attorney leading the class action on behalf of the drivers accusing the company of trying to “potentially trick” drivers into giving up their rights.

At issue is a new agreement that Uber has sent out to all of its drivers. It reportedly requires drivers to sign it before they can access the app that manages their potential fares. One clause requires any job disputes to be resolved through arbitration.

Despite Uber’s contention that the agreement provides drivers 30 days to opt out of that clause, the attorney for drivers says the new agreement is creating confusion in the context of the lawsuit. She suggests Uber’s effort is a deliberate effort to undermine the court’s role in the suit and deny drivers who may not yet be part of the action their fair and full rights. She’s asking the judge to invalidate the agreement.

A hearing on the issue is slated for this week.


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