On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that an arbitration clause Uber had included in its agreement signed by all drivers was unenforceable, and that therefore a class-action lawsuit in California to rule that all independent-contractor drivers are ersatz employees could include all 160,000 drivers for the service in the state since 2009. As of Friday morning, Uber had sent out a new agreement for drivers to sign, and as BuzzFeed reports, attorneys arguing for the class action are filing an emergency motion to quash it. That motion will be heard next Thursday.
The company is asking all drivers to sign a new agreement that will make arbitration enforceable, effectively preventing any future class actions.
As the Chronicle adds, drivers have to agree to the agreement before they're permitted to accept any new rides this weekend.
Drivers are allowed to opt out of this single provision by emailing the company separately a caveat buried within the 21-page, legalese-heavy document itself that many, especially drivers for whom English is a second language, are not likely to read. And an Uber spokesman tells the Chron that their lawyers received a verbal OK from the federal judge to issue the revised agreement.
Shannon Liss-Riordan, the Boston-based labor attorney representing the plaintiffs in the suit, issued a statement saying, "We believe this is an illegal attempt by Uber to usurp the court’s role now in overseeing the process of who is included in the class."
Uber is still going to be appealing this week's decision, but the agreement is an end-run to quash any future suits down the line. Says the company's spokesman, "We believe strongly that our agreements are valid, but we are making some changes and clarifications to remove uncertainty for drivers and for us as we work through our multiple appeals on this issue."
The lawsuit, if won by the plaintiffs, could cost Uber hundreds of millions of dollars in back expenses and benefits, and threatens the structure of their basic business model, which keeps its entire worldwide fleet of drivers off their permanent payroll.
It also begs the question of whether Uber would be so wildly profitable, and valuable as a company, if they were following labor laws to the T.
Previously: Uh Oh, Uber: Judge Rules Class Action About Drivers Being Employees Can Expand