Lawyers representing a California livery service are taking an early shot at getting a federal judge to find that Uber Technologies Inc. is running afoul of the state’s labor laws by classifying its drivers as contractors rather than employees.
Robins Kaplan and Keller Lenkner lawyers sued Uber in September on behalf of Studio City-based Diva Limousine Ltd., which claims that the company saves as much as a half billion dollars in required benefits and payroll costs via its driver classifications. They allege the misclassification allows Uber to target clients with “below-cost and anticompetitive pricing.”
On Friday Diva’s lawyers filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that under the employment classifications set out in the California Supreme Court’s Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court opinion from April, Uber drivers are clearly employees.
“The California Supreme Court recently held that a transportation worker is an employee unless the hiring entity can show that the worker ‘performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business,’” Diva’s lawyers wrote. “Uber cannot make that showing.”
Keller Lenkner’s Ashley Keller said in a phone interview Friday afternoon that the only way that Uber could argue that its drivers are not employees under the second prong of the test to determine worker classification outlined by Dynamex is by arguing that it isn’t in the business of providing rides.
“I don’t see any way a company like Uber could say with a straight face that Uber’s drivers are ‘merely incidental’ to its business,” Keller said.
Co-counsel Michael Geibelson of Robins Kaplan added, “Only when they complete their switch to driverless cars will they be able to do their business without their drivers.”
Uber is represented in the suit by a San Francisco-based team from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. In a court filing Friday, Uber’s lawyers indicated that they plan to respond to the complaint on or by Nov. 9.
Read the motion below: