There has been an ongoing debate regarding whether or not gig-economy drivers for Uber and Lyft are independent contractors or employees, who would be eligible for benefits. The National Labor Relations Board recently ruled Uber drivers, specifically between 2015 and 2016, were independent contractors, Bloomberg Law first reported.
“Drivers’ virtually complete control of their cars, work schedules, and log-in locations, together with their freedom to work for competitors of Uber, provided them with significant entrepreneurial opportunity,” the memo states. “On any given day, at any free moment, UberX drivers could decide how best to serve their economic objectives: by fulfilling ride requests through the App, working for a competing rideshare service, or pursuing a different venture altogether. The surge pricing and other financial incentives Uber utilized to meet rider demand not only reflect Uber’s “hands off” approach, they also constituted a further entrepreneurial opportunity for drivers.”
This decision aligns with a similar one from the Department of Labor, which determined gig-economy workers are independent contractors and therefore not eligible for minimum wage and overtime pay.
This decision, however, does not mean there won’t be statewide lawsuits targeting the likes of Uber and Lyft regarding employment classification. What this does mean is the NLRB will maintain a position that Uber drivers are not eligible for federal protections around unionizing. Drivers will also have a harder time to file unfair labor practices charges at the federal level.
The release of this decision comes just days after Uber made its lackluster debut on the NYSE. Ahead of the IPO, drivers protested outside of the company’s San Francisco headquarters, seeking better wages, benefits, transparent policies and a voice. Drivers also went on strike all over the world with similar demands.