Federal Court Says Uber Minimum Wage Lawsuit Can Go Ahead, Add More Plaintiffs

Image courtesy of Adam Fagen

There’s been a tiny bit of progress for Uber drivers seeking “employee” status along with reimbursement of vehicle expenses and back pay. While other cases have simply settled for large cash payments, one lawsuit that could cover multiple drivers is working its way through the federal court system in North Carolina, and a judge is letting the case go forward as a conditional action under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

What Does This Mean?

The ruling [PDF] means that the case can go forward as a conditional action, adding any other interested plaintiffs to the case. The difference between a conditional action and a class action is that in a class action, everyone who fits the requirements is part of the lawsuit unless they explicitly exclude themselves. In a conditional action, potential plaintiffs can choose to become part of the suit or not.

Who Can Be A Part Of The Lawsuit?

For this case, Hood v. Uber, the potential class is smaller than just “everyone who has ever driven for Uber.” That’s because Uber began to make drivers waive their right to file a class action or other kinds of standard lawsuits. That means that only drivers who signed up early on or who waived the arbitration requirement but were allowed to drive anyway are eligible to take part in the lawsuit.

Wait, How Do I Waive Arbitration?

Based on our reading of Uber’s terms of use for passengers, you can’t get out of Uber’s requirement to use binding arbitration for all disputes unless you originally signed up for the site before the site made arbitration mandatory. You can reject changes to the terms of use as a passenger, but cannot reject the arbitration requirement.

There may be a provision for new drivers to waive arbitration when they first sign up: There was in 2015. Follow the instructions, which will require you to send an email to a specific address with specific wording, or send a written letter to a specific address.

$2 Per Hour

Still, the attorney in this case is hopeful, since there could be thousands of plaintiffs even with those restrictions. The lead plaintiff says that he earned as little as $2 per hour working for Uber, and he’s seeking back pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Uber, for its part, notes that a different court denied certification in another similar case. A spokesman says that the company plans to fight the case itself as well as its certification.

“We look forward to challenging whether this case should proceed as a collective action, as well as litigating the merits of these claims,” he told Ars Technica.

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