May 2, 2018

THE GIG ECONOMY: New court ruling could force Uber, Lyft to convert drivers to employees.

Numerous employment law experts that Ars spoke with said that the new [California Supreme Court] opinion could end up being a moment of reckoning for Silicon Valley. Among those we spoke with is Shannon Liss-Riordan, a Boston-based labor lawyer who has brought numerous cases against Uber, Grubhub, and others.

“The test will provide much stronger worker protections and make it extremely difficult for companies to classify their workforce as independent contractors, as many employers have been trying to do, and unfortunately many courts have allowed them to get away with it,” Liss-Riordan said in an email to Ars. “Under this test, if the work is performed within the usual course of the company’s business, the worker is an employee.”

Byron Goldstein, an Oakland-based attorney who also has brought cases against startups over labor issues, agreed.

“There are many tech companies cheating the law, their workers, and their competitors because they misclassify their workers,” he emailed Ars. “Because this decision provides clarity regarding whether a worker is an employee, those companies should understand that they do not get a free pass merely because they write software.”

While I don’t think the courts should be interfering in private business relationships, it’s impossible to work up any sympathy for Uber, Lyft, or most any Silicon Valley tech company.

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