The federal suit, filed on behalf of 19 drivers in Dallas, Houston and Austin, could disrupt the ride-hailing app’s business model
Uber considers drivers to be independent operators, but a federal class-action lawsuit filed Friday in Houston charges that the company’s grip on them is so extensive that they should be deemed employees.
The suit on behalf of 19 Texas drivers in Dallas, Houston and Austin, if successful, could make drivers Uber staffers and disrupt the ride-calling app’s business model, the Houston Chronicle reported. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
“Uber tracks every move that a driver makes,” Houston lawyer Kevin Michaels told the newspaper. “As long as they are on the app, they are under Uber’s control.”
For instance, drivers who don’t often make themselves available by activating the app can be deactivated, as can drivers who cancel too many rides.
The lawsuit challenges the San Francisco-based company’s assertions, in promotional materials, that drivers can earn $100,000 annually, saying that when calculations take into account drivers’ waiting for fares, their earnings are actually below minimum wage.
“An individual would have to drive an exorbitant number of hours on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to even approach gross fares totaling this amount, much less earn this amount,” the lawsuit states. “Uber knew such statements were fraudulent and misleading and also knew that individuals would rely on such misrepresentations when deciding to become Uber drivers.”
The claims are similar to others made in widely publicized lawsuits around the country, including California, Massachusetts and Illinois, that could ultimately drive the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In addition to demanding that drivers be given full-employee status with benefits, the suit asks for back pay of accrued overtime.
As of Friday afternoon, Uber officials had not responded to several requests for comment.