By: Samantha Barbere
A controversial issue that has existed in the Uber community for years circles around the classification of Uber drivers. Uber has made it clear that they believe its driver “partners” fit the definition of independent contractors rather than employees. Uber drivers on the other hand, refuse to accept the stance taken by the company, and assert they are best described as employees. Lawsuits which addressed the issue in California and Massachusetts ended in a settlement. The settlement awarded over $100 million to workers, and in exchange the company will be allowed to categorize them as independent contractors.
After the settlement the tension between the company and their drivers seemed to quiet down for some time. However recently, to the company’s dismay, the issue has resurfaced. The issue reemerged in connection with the creation of Uber’s new sister company UberEATS. UberEATS is a food delivery service which was created by Uber. Users download the Uber app on their phones and once they open the app they are provided with a list of restaurants in their location. They then choose their meal and track the status of its preparation and delivery, all through the app.
The disagreement over the status of its drivers, which caused many issues for Uber in the past, is now spilling over to affect their new project. UberEATS drivers are starting to make assertions that are not unfamiliar to Uber. They are claiming that the company erroneously classifies its drivers as freelancers. The classification disagreement goes deeper than just a dispute between the company and its workers. The way the workers are classified decides what benefits the workers will be allowed to enjoy.
UberEATS workers recently filed a class action lawsuit against Uber regarding their categorization as freelancers. In the suit they claim that the title as “freelancers” deprives them of numerous benefits that they would enjoy as employees.  Some benefits they believe they are entitled to include, “minimum wage, worker’s compensation insurance, unemployment insurance, disability insurance and social security.” The claims asserted by the drivers mimic much of the language in the claims that were made in one of the first cases originally brought by drivers in 2015. The complaint accuses the company of using some obscure formula in order to underpay the drivers. The relief sought includes an array of things, but most notably, drivers are seeking “unpaid back wages at the applicable minimum wage rate” dating back three years.
UberEATS driver’s biggest issue is that being classified as freelancers deprives them of receiving the minimum wage that is mandated under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The plaintiff in the suit, Manny Crespo, states that although the company refuses to recognize its drivers as employees, they continue to treat them like employees. For Manny, that’s where the problem lies. He says the company sets their pay rates, retains the right to fire them at their discretion, and requires them to use their personal phones and emails to receive work information. He believes that if the company is going to treat them like employees, then it’s only fair they receive the benefits that come along with being categorized as such.
The San Francisco based company has faced numerous attacks by drivers all centering on this one classification issue. Other than the most recent case brought by UberEat drivers, Uber is facing five additional suits regarding the same exact issue. It’ll be interesting to see if Uber will finally swallow their pride and categorize their drivers as employees. However, it is foreseeable that the company stands their ground and maintains that the drivers are independent contractors. If they choose to take that route and stand their ground, I think it’s fair to say that this will not be the last suit Uber faces on this classification issue.
 O’Connor v. Uber Techs., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 116482 *5 (N.D Cal. 2015)
 Rich McCormick, Uber settles lawsuits to keep drivers independent contractors in California and Massachusetts , theVerge (Apr. 21, 2016, 11:57 PM), http://www.theverge.com/2016/4/21/11485424/uber-suit-california-Massachusetts-drivers-employee-contractor.
 See Andrew J. Hawkins, Uber’s labor fight spills over into food delivery service, theVerge (Jan. 25, 2017, 2:39 PM), http://www.theverge.com/2017/1/25/14387256/ubereats-lawsuit-worker-misclassification-benefits-florida.
 See Id.
 See Id.
 What is UberEats- All You Need To Know, rideordriveuber (Sept. 29, 2016), http://rideordriveuber.com/what-is-ubereats-all-you-need-to-know/#.
 Hawkins, supra note 6.
 Id.; see also O’Connor v. Uber Techs., 82 F. Supp 1133 (N.D. Cal. 2015).
 See Id.
 Id.; see also Suevon Lee, UberEATS Drivers Sue Over Alleged Wage Violations, Law360 (Jan. 25, 2017, 5:36 PM), https://www.law360.com/articles/884786/ubereats-drivers-sue-over-alleged-wage-violations.
 See O’Connor v. Uber Techs., 82 F. Supp 1133 (N.D. Cal. 2015); see also Complaint at 1-4, Manny Crespo v. Uber Tech. Inc., (M.D Fla. 2017)(No.8:17-00187).
 Hawkins, supra note 6.
 Andrew J. Hawkins, Uber’s labor fight spills over into food delivery service, theVerge (Jan. 25, 2017, 2:39 PM), http://www.theverge.com/2017/1/25/14387256/ubereats-lawsuit-worker-misclassification-benefits-florida.
 See Id.
 See Id.
 Suevon Lee, UberEATS Drivers Sue Over Alleged Wage Violations, Law360 (Jan. 25, 2017, 5:36 PM), https://www.law360.com/articles/884786/ubereats-drivers-sue-over-alleged-wage-violations.