My colleagues Andy Scott and Felix Digilov reported on last week’s Supreme Court decision that rejected a trucking company’s effort to force its drivers to arbitrate their wage and hour claims against the company, despite the fact they had signed otherwise enforceable arbitration agreements (New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira). The reasoning behind that ruling? The SCOTUS held that the Federal Arbitration Act’s exemption that excludes “contracts of employment of workers engaged in interstate commerce” includes not only interstate transportation workers with employment agreements, but also those interstate transportation workers with independent contractor agreements. Now, a prominent labor law commentator posits whether this same decision could cause trouble for Lyft, Uber, and other gig economy companies.
On the eve of the holidays, gig businesses got a gift in the form of a ruling from a Massaschusetts federal court where a clickwrap agreement was held to be sufficient to bind a worker to an arbitration clause. The ruling in favor of Lyft will not necessarily help all businesses across the country—especially because the court specifically pointed out that his ruling might have been different had he been applying California or New York law—but it does continue the trend of holding workers to the terms of an electronic arbitration agreement.
A recent decision from a federal court in California shows that there is a simple three-step process to follow if you want to ensure that your gig workers are found to be subject to your arbitration provisions. The judge’s December 17 opinion in a misclassification case against Postmates provides a classic blueprint that you might to consider adopting for your own business.
Airbnb Inc. recently announced it would no longer force its employees who filed sexual harassment lawsuits to settle their claims in private arbitration. The notice came only days after Google and Facebook made similar announcements concerning policy changes about sexual harassment, including ending forced arbitration for such claims. Google’s announcement followed a 20,000 employee walkout protesting the company’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations. As previously discussed on the blog, in May of this year, Uber and Lyft became two of the first gig companies to waive mandatory arbitration and remove the confidentiality requirement for sexual assault and harassment victims (for passenger, driver and employee claims).
It was just a matter of time. After the Supreme Court cleared the way for businesses to use class waivers with their employees and contractors with the Epic Systems ruling this past May, many observers expected that the decision would come back to haunt a class of Uber drivers who wanted to litigate a class action misclassification case against the ride-sharing company in court. Earlier today, sure enough, the other shoe dropped.
When the Supreme Court decided this May that businesses were permitted to enter into class waiver agreements with employees and contractors, forcing them into individual arbitration proceedings over workplace disputes rather than having to be subjected to bloated and costly class action litigation, we called it a “monumental” decision that “saved employment arbitration as we know it.” For businesses in the gig world, we now have a definitive example of just how valuable the SCOTUS’s new standard can be when it comes to misclassification cases.
Just last month, Uber announced that it would no longer require its passengers, drivers, or employees to arbitrate their individual claims of sexual assault and sexual harassment, allowing such claims to proceed in court. Uber’s Chief Legal Officer Tony West stated in a blog post: “We have learned it’s important to give sexual assault and harassment survivors control of how they pursue their claims. So moving forward, survivors will be free to choose to resolve their individual claims in the venue they prefer: In a mediation where they can choose confidentiality; in arbitration, where they can choose to maintain their privacy while pursuing their case; or in open court.” Uber will also no longer require those who settle sexual assault or harassment claims to sign non-disclosure agreements. Hours after Uber’s announcement, Lyft announced that it, too, would waive mandatory arbitration and remove the confidentiality requirement for sexual assault and harassment victims.
A delivery driver for gig economy company DoorDash has been ordered by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to take his misclassification case to a private arbitrator instead of court pursuant to a valid arbitration agreement he entered into. The April 25 decision is a solid win for gig employers and could provide a template for how other similar businesses should structure their own arbitration agreements.
How important is your businesses’ terms of service (TOS) agreement, usually presented to users of your business model through a process requiring them to click “I agree” before they can access your platform?
A few days ago, Uber won a significant battle when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s decision and upheld the company’s arbitration agreements. No doubt about it, this is a big win. You might remember a few weeks ago when I wrote a post entitled, “Will Uber Actually Be Happy It’s $100M Settlement Fell Apart?” If I had a chance to edit that post now, I’d replace the six paragraphs of analysis with a one-word answer: