Uber Technologies Inc. has been barred by US District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco from imposing a new and reworded contract that is “likely, frankly, to engender confusion" in Chen's words. Bloomberg reports that the Judge also ordered the company to cease communications with drivers who are covered by a class-action lawsuit against Uber without consulting their lawyer or receiving the consent of the court.
Earlier this month, Chen dealt Uber a blow on behalf of workers by adjudicating that many more drivers, perhaps a number greater than 100,000 of them, might be able to join a class-action suit against the company to reclassify them as employees and receive reimbursement on such items as gas.
Uber's response was swift. The company sent out the new agreement to drivers, making arbitration enforceable and in effect preventing any future class-actions.
But buried in the confusing contract was a caveat. Opting out of the single provision was possible by emailing the company separately. Drivers might do so within 30 days or else be prohibited “from participating in or recovering relief under any current or future” class-action suit.
At the time, Boston-based labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, who represents the plaintiffs, said in a statement, "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."
That's now been largely vindicated. As Chen reportedly told his court with regard to the new contract, “I’m very concerned about what has happened.”
Uber, the largest of its startup kin, is now valued at $62.5 billion. This summer, a model built by Re/code and ZenPayroll estimated that Uber might need to spend nearly $209 million a year to reclassify its drivers as employees in California alone.