We knew we hadn’t heard the end of this case, but today it’s official: the worker who lost what is believed to be the nation’s first-ever gig economy misclassification trial last month has filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In what is believed to be the first time in our nation’s history that a trial court has reached a judicial merits determination in a gig economy misclassification case, a federal judge in California ruled in favor of the company this afternoon and found that a delivery driver was properly classified as an independent contractor. By rejecting the driver’s claim that he was actually an employee deserving of minimum wage, overtime, and other benefits associated with employee status, the court handed gig economy companies everywhere a groundbreaking victory.
The first few days of 2018 might not be going to plan for those gig economy businesses hoping that the new year might bring some relief in the seemingly never-ending misclassification struggle. As we sit on pins and needles waiting for a decision from the trial court judge in the blockbuster Grubhub trial (you can familiarize yourself with the trial here and here if you need a refresher), the plaintiff’s attorney is asking for a delay in the court’s ruling. Yesterday, plaintiff Raef Lawson’s attorney provided the court with a quick one-page filing that might otherwise seem innocuous; after all, it was just a “Notice of Supplemental Authority,” a common legal tool intended to alert the court to some additional legal precedent that might impact the case. But its contents could signal that a bombshell is on the way.
After a five-hour closing argument session in a California federal court on Monday, the gig economy is waiting with bated breath and trying to hazard their best guesses about how the judge will rule in the high-stakes Lawson v. Grubhub misclassification trial. Will Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley determine that former driver Raef Lawson was properly characterized as an independent contractor, dashing his hopes of a larger recovery and giving the gig economy in general a much-needed legal boost? Or will she determine that he was an employee all along, sending ripples of panic through the headquarters of gig economy companies across the country?
The parties in the Grubhub misclassification case are back in court on Monday, October 30, delivering their final closing arguments to the judge. We’ve written about the trial extensively. To sum it up, though: a former delivery driver for Grubhub (Raef Lawson) claims he was misclassified as an independent contractor, and seeks to advance his claims on behalf of a whole class full of other drivers. Raising the stakes dramatically is the fact that this could very well be the first independent contractor misclassification claim for the gig economy has reached a judicial merits determination. Although the ultimate decision by the judge will not necessarily make or break the gig economy as a whole, this is an important milestone.