Gig News: Brazilian Judge Finds Uber Driver Is Employee

A labor court judge in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil has found that an Uber driver there is an employee of the company, taking the debate over the classification of drivers to another country.  The Brazilian newspaper Zero Hora reports that the decision is the first in Brazil to recognize Uber as an employer of drivers.  According to Reuters, the judge “ordered Uber to pay one driver around 30,000 reais ($10,000) in compensation for overtime, night shifts, holidays and expenses such as gasoline, water and candy for passengers.”  Uber announced that it will appeal the decision.  The ruling only applies to a single driver, but could open the door to more challenges.

Brazilian news portal G1 notes that the judge applied a multi-factor test for employment status under Brazilian law.  Key factors included that a) users are assigned a driver by Uber, unable to select from options; b) Uber (not the passenger) pays drivers at the end of each week after withdrawing a percentage, thus going beyond simple mediation of passenger-driver business; c) transport is Uber’s primary business, as partially evidenced by its investment in automobiles vehicles; and d) Uber drivers are submissive to the company, forced to comply with strict rules in order to drive for the company.

Zero Hora also emphasized that the judge found that drivers were encouraged to drive regularly despite flexibility, and that Uber engaged in a hiring process by approving drivers.

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Today’s News and Commentary — February 16th, 2016

Steel workers took to the streets in Brussels to demand continued European Union protections against cheap Chinese imports.  According to The New York Times “some 5,000 protesters packed the European district of the Belgian capital, where many European Union offices are, and their leaders handed an engraved metal plaque with their demands to Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission.”  Some assert that Chinese imports destroy both jobs and the environment, but the European Commission will decide this year whether to give China market economy status.

In the United States, the government is closing a loophole on products tied to slaves.  The New York Times notes that “President Obama will sign legislation this week that effectively bans American imports of fish caught by forced labor in Southeast Asia, part of a flurry of recent actions by the White House, federal agencies, international trade unions and foreign governments to address lawlessness at sea and to better protect offshore workers and the marine environment.”  The action closes a loophole in the Tariff Act of 1930, which “which bars products made by convict, forced or indentured labor” but “has exempted goods derived from slavery if American domestic production could not meet demand.”

Turning to Brazil, labor rights campaigners are asserting that over 300 Brazilian companies have been fined for operating  with labor arrangements akin to modern-day slavery.  The Thompson Reuters Foundation reports that the rights group Reporter Brazil revealed “that 340 Brazilian companies from May 2013 to May 2015 employed people working in slave-like conditions, including in sweatshops producing clothes, in farms, cattle ranches, timber companies, construction and charcoal production.”  According to the group, the Brazilian minister of labor has fined the companies in question.

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