Federal Judge Rules That California Uber Drivers Can Sue For Vehicle And Phone Expenses

There’s a fairly low barrier to entry if you want to work as a driver for Uber or similar ride-hailing apps: you need to be over 21, have a safe driving record, and have a car that meets the company’s criteria. Then the company sends you work through their app, an arrangement that a current class action lawsuit says makes drivers employees of the service, entitled to reimbursement of their car and phone expenses. Now a federal district judge in California has ruled that the workers are entitled to have Uber cover their vehicle and smartphone expenses.

Judge Edward Chen certified the plaintiffs in this case as a class action, and now he’s ruled that members of the class are allowed to sue Uber for what the judge deems the biggest expenses that drivers have: fuel and maintenance for their cars, and their smartphone bills.

Uber’s attorneys tried to argue that if drivers sued for vehicle and phone expenses, they would be giving up their right to sue for other, potentially lucrative expenses that the company didn’t name.

The judge didn’t find this argument persuasive, writing that “the Court finds that it is sufficient where, as here, it seems self-evident that vehicle-related and phone expenses will likely comprise the majority of any recoverable expenses from performing a transportation service and Uber has presented no persuasive evidence to the contrary.”

For its part, Uber stands by their explanation that their drivers are better off as contractors than as employees, saying in a statement:

Nearly 90 percent of drivers say the main reason they use Uber is because they love being their own boss. Drivers use Uber on their own terms; they control their use of the app along with where and when they drive. As employees, drivers would lose the personal flexibility they value most – they would have set shifts, earn a fixed hourly wage, and be unable to use other ridesharing apps.

Uber Drivers Win a Round in Expense Fight [Courthouse News]