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.
Last week, the French Court of Appeals dealt another blow to global gig businesses, ruling that the agreement between Uber and a former driver was “an employment contract,” because the former driver was “dependent” on Uber “for work.” In so ruling, the court rejected the company’s long held position that it is “merely a service provider with drivers who are self-employed, able to work when and where they want.” The decision overturned a lower court ruling in favor of Uber.
The next shot has been fired in the long-running misclassification dispute between plaintiff Raef Lawson and gig economy giant Grubhub, as the company filed its Answering Brief with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals late last night. As regular readers of this blog know, Lawson and Grubhub squared off in the nation’s first-ever gig economy misclassification trial in late 2017, leading to a victory for Grubhub in February 2018. Things took a turn for the worse in April 2018 when the California Supreme Court dropped a bombshell and changed the misclassification standard with its infamous Dynamex decision, which ushered in the notorious ABC test, and Lawson’s attorneys quickly pounced and argued that he should now be declared the victor given the new standard. Lawson filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and filed his opening brief in November 2018. Now, it’s Grubhub’s turn.
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.
Last week was a bad week for gig economy companies in Oregon. It wasn’t just the post-holiday malaise that so many suffer from after having to return to work following a long, relaxing weekend that probably included eating too much turkey.
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).
Sure, the monetary portion of the settlement—$10 million to a class of approximately 400 Uber software engineers and over $2.6M in attorneys’ fees—is pretty eye-opening. But perhaps the more significant part of the settlement agreement that was just agreed to by a federal court judge on Wednesday were all of the non-monetary terms.
The first-ever trial on the gig economy misclassification to reach a judicial merits determination has now turned into the first-ever appeal on gig economy misclassification. And late Friday evening, the plaintiff seeking to overturn the ruling filed his opening appeals brief with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. We’ve covered the Lawson v. Grubhub decision in detail over the past year; if you want to refresh your memory, feel free to catch up by reading any of our posts. In sum, a federal trial court ruled in February 2018 that Grubhub correctly classified plaintiff Raef Lawson as an independent contractor and rejected his misclassification claim, but then the California Supreme Court changed the game a few months later by adopting the strict ABC test for misclassification in the now infamous Dynamex case. How will the Dynamex decision impact the Gurbhub appeal? We’re not sure, but we know how the plaintiff feels about it. We digested the 61-page appeals brief and can give you the three most important takeaways from the filing.
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.