From NewsOK, Paula Burkes shares a conversation with Adam Childers about the California decision that an Uber driver was an employee and its implications for Uber drivers in Oklahoma. Paula writes:
Q: What could this case mean for other Uber drivers and the company?
A: This ruling is just the latest twist in an ongoing legal battle that Uber, and other “on-demand” companies, have been waging in jurisdictions across the land. The battle is over whether or not the technology companies that use smartphones to match up the public with individuals who provide personal services, are actually entering into employer-employee relationships. Uber has won this battle in several states, securing rulings that the company isn’t the employer of the quickly growing force of drivers who can be reached through the Uber “app.” However, the California Labor Commission has slowed this momentum, and given hope to plaintiffs across the U.S. who are embroiled in legal battles with Uber seeking employment status for purposes of overtime wages, employee benefits and in the case of Berwick, expense reimbursements. If other courts, agencies and commissions follow the reasoning of the California Labor Commission, this decision could radically change the business relationship that has been at the core of the “on-demand” revolution.
Q: Are there Oklahoma implications?
A: In the summer of 2014 Uber was the subject of a lawsuit in an Oklahoma federal court in which the plaintiff claimed to have been assaulted by an Uber driver. The plaintiff claimed damages against the driver and Uber. I was one of the attorneys who represented Uber in that case and the federal judge ruled in favor of the company on a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In reaching that decision, the judge declined to make her decision based on whether or not the driver at issue was an employee. Instead, the court granted the motion to dismiss on other grounds. This means the issue of Uber’s standing as a potential employer remains an open question in Oklahoma. Although the precedent of a California Labor Commission office is certainly not binding in Oklahoma, it will remain food for thought as legal pundits wait to see if an Oklahoma court will make a definitive ruling in a future “on-demand” company case.
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