(Photo: Jason Doiy/ALM)
Uber has been dealt another blow in its long-running battle over the employment status of its drivers, with a Swiss insurance agency ruling that the drivers are workers for which the company must pay social security.
The mobile cab-hailing app company had argued that its drivers are freelance contractors, but Swiss public sector insurer Suva found that they should be classified as staff because they have to comply with Uber rules and have no control over prices or payment terms, broadcaster SRF reports. Uber has said that it may now contest the decision in the courts.
Uber has faced multiple fines, legal and regulatory actions across the United States and Europe over its business model, and in October lost a landmark lawsuit brought by a U.K. trade union on behalf of two of its drivers.
The London employment tribunal ruled that the drivers should be classified as workers, rather than self-employed, meaning they are now entitled to workers’ rights, including paid vacation and rest breaks, and must also be paid the national minimum wage, which doesn’t apply to freelancers.
Uber, which was represented by DLA Piper, has said it will appeal the ruling.
The San Francisco-based company is facing similar claims in the United States and agreed to pay up to $100 million to end a class action suit over the employment status of drivers. But the settlement was rejected by a federal judge in August.
That dispute is now set for arbitration after Uber’s U.S. legal team at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher successfully appealed a 2015 ruling that voided the company’s arbitration agreements. The decision was overturned by a federal appeals court in September.
Uber is also currently involved in a hugely significant case before the European Court of Justice—the EU’s top court—which will determine whether Uber is a transportation company or a digital service.
If the court decides that Uber is a transportation company, it will be subject to much tighter regulation and could even see some of its services banned by certain EU countries. The company is being represented by Spanish firm Cuatrecasas, Goncalves Pereira. A ruling is not expected until March 2017 at the earliest.