(Reuters) – All eyes are on California as the state’s voters decide the future of the gig economy in a Nov. 3 ballot initiative that will determine whether Uber Technologies Inc, Lyft Inc, Doordash and others can classify drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.
That question is also being tested in other countries, states and agencies as well:
The EU’s highest court in 2017 held that Uber is a transport service to be regulated like taxi companies, not a technology platform that connects riders with drivers. That opened the way for challenges in EU national courts. European taxi companies are heavily regulated on the local levels, and their drivers are generally full-time employees who have to pass extensive licensing tests.
France’s top court in March recognized the right of an Uber driver to be considered an employee, since he could not build his own clientele or set prices, a ruling that could require Uber to pay more taxes and benefits such as paid holidays. Other drivers could follow.
A German court in December 2019 banned Uber’s ride-hailing services in Germany, ruling the company lacks a license to offer passenger transport services. The company said it was considering an appeal.
German taxi drivers undergo extensive training to receive a license and generally are full-time employees. To offer rides in Germany, Uber has partnered with subcontractor rental car fleets whose licensed drivers are insured employees with full benefits.
Britain’s Supreme Court is considering whether two Uber drivers are entitled to employment protections.
Spain’s Supreme Court in September ruled that riders for Barcelona-based food delivery app Glovo were employees, which could clear the way for more gig economy workers to demand contracts and benefits.
A Brazilian higher court for labor in February ruled there was no employment relationship between Uber and its drivers, siding with the ride-hailing company against a Sao Paulo driver.
Canada’s Supreme Court in June ruled in favor of a driver in a gig economy case that paved the way for a class action suit calling for Uber to recognize drivers in Canada as employees.
Massachusetts is suing Uber and Lyft over allegedly misclassifying their drivers as independent contractors.
NEW YORK, USA
Some legislators intend to introduce a bill that will make it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors.
Separately, New York’s highest court in March ruled that Postmates food delivery drivers and potentially thousands of other gig workers are employees entitled to unemployment benefits.
Uber in July agreed to acquire Postmates.
NEW JERSEY, USA
New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development in 2019 fined Uber $645 million over unpaid unemployment taxes due to misclassification, which the company is disputing.
The state’s Supreme Court in July ruled that an Uber driver was misclassified as an independent contractor and entitled to unemployment benefits.
UNEMPLOYMENT ACTIONS BY OTHER U.S. STATES
Lyft faces administrative audits with state employment agencies in Connecticut, Oregon, Wisconsin and Illinois.
DRIVER LAWSUITS IN THE U.S.
Drivers and delivery workers across the country have filed lawsuits in at least a dozen U.S. states alleging they are misclassified and entitled to more substantial benefits, including unemployment insurance.
Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; editing by Peter Henderson and Cynthia Osterman