Things seem to have turned in Uber's favor in at least one case involving a dispute about how to classify its UberBLACK drivers. For those who may not be aware, UberBLACK is Uber's upper-tier limo service. This latest case follows several lawsuits over the past few years. Several of those have claimed the drivers of a number of Uber's services should be treated as employees under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. This latest ruling brings an end to a lawsuit that had been ongoing since the beginning of 2016. Philadelphia U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson ruled on April 11 that because the drivers are entitled to work when they choose and conduct personal business in between jobs, they are classified as independent contractors. The classification as employees would have granted a few key legal protections, guarantees about minimum wage, and overtime pay.
The ruling effectively means that drivers for UberBLACK will not be awarded the overtime pay or wages that were being sought in the case. That shouldn't come as too much of a shock since this is actually the second such ruling involving Uber. A similar ruling was reached by a district judge in Florida just last year. However, things aren't nearly so clean cut elsewhere in the country. New York and California have each classified Uber's drivers as employees in past rulings under the legal definitions of those states. In the meantime, it may turn out that the same classification doesn't work for its other drivers. Moreover, that will be compounded by the fact that company could still have a long way to go. There may still be further cases brought in the remaining states with regard to sorting out the classifications for its drivers.
Having said that, this is definitely a win that the company needed, after an ongoing bout of bad luck and controversy. Although this ruling could lead to some controversy of its own over Uber's treatment of its drivers, that's true whether it breeds negative public opinion or not. Not least of all it provides a clear definition of what rights the drivers have and unburdens the company according to the laws of that state. It's also a drastically different outcome than some other cases. Most notably, the E.U. ruled last year that Uber drivers are classifiable as taxi drivers. Those rulings place a far greater strain on the companies business model than even a standard employee classification would – primarily because that status for drivers grants far more obligations for Uber to fulfill.