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Uber fight gets personal

Uber’s classification of drivers as independent contractors is facing a new legal attack.

In addition to suing the company over misclassification, lawyers for California Uber drivers last week filed a lawsuit against former CEO
Travis Kalanick, who stepped down on June 20, and Uber Chairman Garrett Camp, as well as unnamed others. The suit seeks reimbursement of expenses, claiming violation of the California Labor Code, and tips it claims Uber kept from drivers — also a violation of the code.

“Defendant Kalanick knowingly advised Uber, for money or other valuable consideration, to classify its drivers as independent contractors in order to avoid employee status and should therefore be held jointly and severally liable with Uber for all violations alleged herein,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit against Kalanick and Camp seeks class-action status and was filed June 22 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, who is also leading the lawsuit against Uber in federal court, filed the suit against Kalanick and Camp. The original federal lawsuit by California drivers against Uber is still going through the court process after a judge rejected a $100 million settlement last year [1]. Uber is appealing the decision to make that case a class action, and there is a chance that drivers who agreed to a binding arbitration agreement with Uber may be left out of that case.

Liss-Riordan told the Los Angeles Times the new lawsuit was filed as a precaution [2] “to ensure that if we are successful, and Uber is not around to see the end of this case, Travis Kalanick and others will be personally liable for that debt to the drivers.”

The lawsuit may also be a way to get around Uber contract language that requires drivers to use individual arbitration, Richard Reibstein of law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP wrote in a post on Lexology [3]. “Much the same way that Gretchen Carlson sought to avoid the arbitration provisions in her employment agreement with Fox News when she decided to only sue Roger Ailes personally.”

The new case against Kalanick and Camp shows that employee classification continues to garner interest in legal quarters. Earlier this year, Uber competitor Lyft agree to pay $27.5 million [4] to settle a federal independent contractor misclassification lawsuit. Liss-Riordan also brought the Lyft lawsuit. However, Uber is the highest profile example of this trend.

 

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