Monday, September 21, 2020

Uber drivers' self-employed status 'fictitious,' France rules

Mar 05. 2020
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By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Helene Fouquet · BUSINESS, WORLD, US-GLOBAL-MARKETS, CAREER-WORKPLACE, EUROPE 

France's top court ruling opens the way for Uber Technologies Inc. drivers to be reclassified as employees, the country's highest court ruled on Wednesday, the latest in a wave of rulings globally to grant more rights to gig workers.

The Cour de Cassation in Paris said Uber drivers can't build a clientele, don't set rates or decide on terms and conditions, itineraries are imposed and destinations unknown to them. The top court said the fact that Uber "unilaterally determines its terms and rules" are all indications that drivers are more like employees of the company than self-employed.

"The existence of a relationship of subordination between the company Uber and the driver when connecting to the digital platform" makes the "driver's self-employed status merely fictitious," the Cour de Cassation wrote.

Courts throughout Europe have been giving gig workers more rights. A U.K. appellate court in 2018 ruled that Uber drivers were entitled to the minimum wage and holiday pay. In addition, the company is challenging a California law that also seeks to convert independent contractors into more traditional employees.

"This decision relates to the case of one specific driver, who hasn't used the Uber app since 2017," Uber responded in a statement. "The ruling does not reflect the reasons why drivers choose to use Uber: the independence and freedom to work if, when and where they want."

Rym Saker, a spokeswoman for the company in France, said Uber does not expect the ruling to change the settings of contracts between the company and its drivers.

The consequences of the French ruling are very important, both for the past and for the future, according to Vincent Roulet, a lawyer at Eversheds Sutherland.

"As an employer, Uber becomes liable for social security contributions, is obliged to respect working hours and, where applicable, overtime" among other benefits, the Paris lawyer said. "These points apply as of today, of course, but also to past relationships: these past relationships will therefore have to be settled."

Costs per driver could surge by thousands of dollars if the company has to treat drivers as employees and not independent contractors. In London, the company is also facing the loss of its license to operate in the city.

"Lawsuits in the U.S. and a new ban in London aren't likely to drive Uber off the road, but may affect the company's revenue and increase regulatory and labor costs, in our view," Bloomberg Intelligence wrote on Tuesday.

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