Uh-oh, Uber! California court rules drivers are employees — not freelancers

uber nyc scheduled rides app portland
In a landmark ruling, California’s Labor Commission ruled that Uber drivers are employees, not independent contractors, reports Reuters.

For the most part, drivers for ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are considered freelancers. Because of the drivers’ freelance status, these companies don’t have to worry about higher costs, which include Social Security, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation. In addition, drivers must shoulder various costs associated with driving their cars around, such as repairs, insurance, and gas. In part, the drivers’ freelance status is what allowed Uber to expand so quickly across the country and the world, because it didn’t need to pour money into maintaining its drivers or their vehicles.

Even if Uber disputes the decision, the case could set a precedent for how ride-sharing services categorize drivers.

The ruling, which came to light through a claim made by San Francisco-based driver Barbara Ann Berwick, essentially opens the door for Uber and, potentially, other ride-sharing companies to shoulder higher costs. It also has the potential of affecting the companies’ valuations, as Reuters points out.

Uber argued that its drivers are independent contractors, not employees, and that it is “nothing more than a neutral technology platform.” However, the commissioner didn’t see things that way, since Uber was found to be “involved in every aspect of the operation.” The ruling stated that since Uber knows which tools drivers use and pays close attention to their ratings — going so far as to make sure they can’t access the system if their ratings fall below 4.6 out of 5 stars — the drivers should be considered Uber employees.

As a result of the ruling, Berwick was awarded $4,000 to cover the expenses for which she sued Uber in the first place. According to the report, Uber plans to appeal the ruling and argued that the decision is non-binding.

“The California Labor Commission’s ruling is non-binding and applies to a single driver,” Uber told CNBC in a statement. “Indeed it is contrary to a previous ruling by the same commission, which concluded in 2012 that the driver ‘performed services as an independent contractor, and not as a bona fide employee.'”

Even if Uber disputes the decision, the case could set a precedent for how ride-sharing services categorize drivers, especially since the ruling was made in Uber’s home state of California. However, as such, the ruling only affects Uber drivers in California, and Uber likely won’t start paying the aforementioned additional costs until the appeal process ends.

The potentially business-altering case comes at an awkward time for Uber, as the company just invested a hefty amount of money into China, in order to further expand its operations.

Movies & TV

Why First Man’s Oscar-nominated visual effects are a giant leap for filmmaking

Paul Lambert, the award-winning visual effects supervisor on First Man, reveals the innovative techniques that blended old footage with modern movie magic to make the Apollo 11 mission to the moon resonate with audiences 50 years later and…
Computing

Intel expects Apple to transition Macs to ARM processors in 2020, report says

It has been rumored for some time that Apple could transition away from Intel to ARM processors, but a new report now claims that Intel is aware of the decision and that it could happen in 2020.
Cars

Arizona city slammed with $10M lawsuit over fatal Uber autonomous car accident

The family of Elaine Herzberg, the woman struck and killed by one of Uber's self-driving prototypes, has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the city of Tempe, Arizona. They claim Herzberg jaywalked because she was confused by a brick…
Emerging Tech

Photosynthesizing artificial leaf may be the air-cleaning tool we’ve dreamed of

Engineers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have invented an artificial leaf which could both clean up our air and provide a cost-effective type of fuel. Here's how it works.
Mobile

From folding phones to 5G -- here's everything we saw at Galaxy Unpacked

Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked event treated us to a real parade of technological excellence, from folding phones to new fitness wearables. Here's everything we saw at Galaxy Unpacked on February 20.
Mobile

Google’s radical Gmail redesign is finally rolling out on Android

Google is slowly but surely giving its apps a refresh, modernizing them and ensuring that they're easy to use. The latest app to get a redesign is the Gmail app for Android, which has been redesigned with a few tweaks.
Product Review

Galaxy Watch Active is the right size, no matter how big or small your wrist is

Launched among a massive array of other new products, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active could easily have been missed at Galaxy Unpacked 2019 -- which would be unfortunate. This is a sensibly designed, correctly sized smartwatch suitable for…
Mobile

The best Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus cases to protect your $1,000 phone

Can't get enough of big phones? The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is absolutely up your alley. But it's still fragile, and damage is easily gathered through normal life. Protect it with the best Galaxy S10 Plus cases.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Galaxy S9: How much better is Samsung’s new flagship?

You'd naturally expect the Samsung Galaxy S10 to be better than last year's S9, but just how do the two phones differ? We break down the specs and compare Samsung's flagships in various categories to pick a winner.
Mobile

Protect and style your Samsung Galaxy S10 with the best cases and covers

If you've splashed the cash for a shiny new Samsung Galaxy S10, then you'll want to take steps to protect your investment. With a metal frame and glass curves, the S10 needs some cover. Check out the best Samsung Galaxy S10 cases.
Health & Fitness

Nike’s Android app is bricking its $350 Adapt BB self-lacing shoes

A firmware update for Nike's new self-lacing Adapt BB shoe appears to be bricking the $350 footwear for some owners. Android users have said the Nike app no longer pairs with the shoe, rendering the tightening mechanism useless.
Mobile

You can now pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, or S10e

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is one of the most-anticipated phones of the year, offering a new chipset, beautiful display, and more. Now that the phone has been announced you might be wondering where you can get it for yourself.
Mobile

Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e in the U.K.

The Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e have all been officially announced and can be pre-ordered right now, with deliveries expected on March 8. If you're in the U.K., this is where you need to go to buy one.
Mobile

Sony partnership with Light aims to take smartphone photography to new heights

Smartphone photography is in its ascendancy, and a new partnership between Light and Sony hopes to lift it to new heights through the development of multi-image sensor solutions for smartphones. We spoke to Light to find out more.