When a group of plaintiffs file a class action lawsuit, the class needs to be defined. If the judge is not comfortable with the parameters of the class as laid out by the plaintiffs, the judge can deny class certification until the plaintiffs come back with parameters the judge agrees with.
In the case of the class action lawsuit against Uber, the judge eliminated two groups of drivers from the class: those who were hired for Uber through a limo service and those who signed up to drive for Uber using corporate or fictitious names. The judge deemed the claims of these drivers to be too different from the claims of the drivers who signed up as drivers for Uber under their own names to justify allowing them to join the class. Part of the judge’s reasoning for this was that Uber was not technically the employer of these drivers – the third party Uber used to hire the drivers was the legal employer of these drivers.
The drivers argue that Uber was effectively their employer because Uber controlled the terms of their employment, established rules, and had the ability to decide which employees should be fired. All these are aspects of leverage normally only granted to employers.
Despite all these allegations, Uber had classified the drivers as independent contractors and allegedly denied them rights they should have been entitled to, such as minimum wage and tips.
In the new lawsuit, the plaintiffs are being represented by Liss-Riordan, the same attorney who’s representing the class of plaintiffs who were hired by Uber under their own names and not through a third party. The new wage and hour lawsuit does not currently have class action status, but it is likely Liss-Riordan will petition the court to certify these other two groups of employees, either as one class, or as two separate classes.
In the meantime the original class action lawsuit will likely be full of class members, even without including these two groups. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 current and former Uber drivers qualify to participate in the original class action as defined by the New York state judge.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) guarantees a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all employees working in the United States. It also defines overtime as any time spent working after eight hours a day or forty hours a week and requires employers to pay all their hourly workers one and one-half times their normal hourly rate for all overtime worked.
The Act allows some workers to be held exempt from the minimum wage and overtime requirements, but it is very specific about the types of employees that can qualify for the exemption. For example, tipped employees are entitled to a lower minimum wage, provided the tips they earn, combined with their wages, add up to at least the federal minimum wage. The FLSA also does not extend any protections to independent contractors because it assumes that independent contractors have the leverage to negotiate their own pay rates and terms of employment.