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.
Late Friday afternoon, the attorneys for the worker who came out on the losing end of the Grubhub misclassification trial asked the appeals court to return the case to the lower court for a new hearing. Their reasoning? Last week’s momentous Dynamex ruling by the California Supreme Court changed the standard that courts should follow when making a classification determination between employee and independent contractor, and the plaintiff wants the court to take a fresh look at the case with this new standard in mind. This maneuver was all but inevitable, and gig companies around the country (but especially in California) should pay close attention to the proceedings to see how this development might impact them.
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.
Just hours after the Eagles clinched their upset Super Bowl win over the Patriots, a different battle royale began in a San Francisco courtroom between an established juggernaut and its upstart rival. For techies and trade secret geeks, the Waymo v. Uber trial was shaping up to be the Super Bowl of trade secret litigation. The lead-up to the trial had more surprises than a Justin Timberlake halftime show (though fewer wardrobe malfunctions).
By now, you’ve probably heard the good news: a federal judge yesterday ruled in favor of Grubhub and pronounced that a delivery driver who was challenging the independent contractor classification model was not, in fact, an employee. This appears to be the first time that a classification case in the gig economy reached a judicial merits determination, so it’s sort of a big deal. And while it only applies specifically in California, the decision rested upon a familiar test (centered around the company’s “right to control” its workers) that is commonly used in other jurisdictions across the country, and could be used by other courts looking to rule on similar cases.
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.
The evidentiary phase of the Grubhub misclassification trial ended last week; now the gig economy world waits with baited breath for a final ruling. For those unfamiliar with the situation, this could be the first time the common classification system in the gig economy is on trial. A former delivery driver, Raef Lawson, alleges he was actually an employee and should be compensated for unreimbursed expenses, while the company adamantly argues that he was correctly classified as an independent contractor. Although less than $600 in damages is on the line, the very nature of the gig classification system could be at stake, as a negative ruling could open the floodgates for untold numbers of gig workers across the country to claim they are actually employees.