Gig News: Uber Seeks to Delay O'Connor Trial, Drivers Pursue New Claims

Jon Weinberg

Jon Weinberg is a student at Harvard Law School.

Bloomberg reports that as the June trial date approaches for O’Connor v. Uber, the major California federal class action challenging  Uber’s classification of drivers as independent contractors, both Uber and the drivers are pursing potentially-drastic changes to the suit.

Uber Seeks Trial Delay

As stated in a court filing yesterday, Uber seeks to delay the trial pending the 9th Circuit’s review of Uber’s appeal of the expanded class certification which included drivers who had signed two variants of arbitration clauses, both of which were found unenforceable by Judge Edward Chen.  The expanded class includes 240,000 drivers.  The 9th Circuit agreed to hear Uber’s appeal earlier this week in a one-paragraph appeal, the significance of which is explained by Seattle University law professor Charlotte Garden:

“This is certainly a significant development, and an unwelcome one for the plaintiffs,” Garden said in an e-mail.  While the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco didn’t explain its reasoning, the three-judge panel may have agreed to review the December ruling to “alleviate some of the pressure to settle” the case “because of the sheer size of the class and the amount of liability that Uber is facing,” she said.

Drivers Consider Pursuing “Bounty” Claim

Meanwhile, according to other court filings, drivers are attempting to add an additional $1 billion in claims before the trial under California’s Private Attorney General Act, explained by Bloomberg:

The Uber drivers are invoking a 2004 California law that gives employees the right to step into the shoes of the state labor secretary to bring enforcement actions and lets the state keep 75 percent of any penalties won.  Attorneys for employers have nicknamed the Private Attorneys General Act, or PAGA, the “bounty hunter” and “sue your boss” law in recognition of the 25 percent reward sought by workers who have filed thousands of lawsuits over the past 12 years.

Uber contends in a court filing that adding the PAGA claims, “with less than three months until trial begins, would create insurmountable manageability problems.”

Shannon Liss-Riordan, the attorney representing the drivers, believes claims under the statute could approach $1 billion but that Judge Chen would likely not approve such large penalties since they approach Uber’s total revenue.  Other quoted attorneys believe Judge Chen will allow the PAGA claims in some form.

OnLabor will continue to monitor the suit and other developments concerning labor and the gig economy.

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