The Third Circuit sent Uber Black Drivers on a nice trip back to district court yesterday when the court resuscitated the drivers’ claims that Uber misclassified them as independent contractors instead of employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Pennsylvania law. The appellate court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the transportation behemoth and remanded the case to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for resolution of various disputed issues of material fact. The Third Circuit undertook a searching review of the record, noting three main fact issues requiring additional inquiry: (1) Uber’s right to control the work of drivers; (2) the drivers’ opportunity for profit or loss depending on managerial skill; and (3) the degree of permanence of the working relationship. Focusing on various features in the Uber Black app that relegate control to the company, the appeals court criticized the district court’s finding of driver independence, suggesting it was conclusory: “Although both parties argue that there are no genuine disputes regarding control, the facts adduced show otherwise.”
While this case deals only with Uber Black drivers as opposed to other categories of Uber drivers, the Court’s laser focus on specific features within the app (“Uber decides (1) the fare; (2) which driver receives a trip request; (3) whether to refund or cancel a passenger’s fare; and (4) a driver’s territory, which is subject to change without notice.”) will certainly have strategic repercussions for other gig employers as they continue to battle FLSA and state law misclassification suits. The entire opinion can be found here.