A recent decision from the California Labour Commission (the Commission) has held that drivers from the popular Uber service are employees and not independent contractors. This decision has sparked public interest as its implications could bring trouble for the successful mobile-based start-up.

In coming down on the side of the drivers, the Commission concluded that the employer was involved in “every aspect of the operation” of the ride hauling service. Uber, however, has appealed the decision emphasizing the significant degree of driver autonomy as the basis for their operations and stating that “the number one reason drivers choose to use Uber is because they have complete flexibility and control”.

Will this impact Uber’s Canadian operations? Obviously, California’s law and decisions aren’t applicable in Canada and the criteria by which they determine a person to be an employee or independent contractor are different. However, it could be the embolden Canadian Uber drivers to do the same.

Disputes over employee status are common in Canada and the US. Across the US, states have made contradictory ruling on the classification of drivers as employees or independent contractors.

Will this have an impact on Canada? Uber is already under “attack” in a number of Canadian cities. Time will tell if Canadian drivers launch a similar salvo as their Californian counterparts.

This article was written with the assistance of Nicole Buchanan, summer student.

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