California Judge Gives the Green Light to Uber Sexual Assault Claims

By Mandi R. Liston

 

Did you ever wonder who would be responsible if you were injured while on an Uber ride? What about if you are attacked? Are you stuck going after the driver, or can you hold Uber accountable? We’re one step closer to getting that answer.

Recently, a California federal judge has ruled against Uber’s motion to dismiss two sexual harassment suits, finding that it may be possible for Uber to be held responsible for the actions of its drivers. The difference between only being able to sue the driver personally and suing Uber vicariously results from the court deciding whether Uber's drivers are independent contractors or employees. The distinction is crucial.  If the court finds that Uber drivers are independent contractors it will shut down the possibility of victims to sue Uber for the conduct of its drivers.  If the court finds that the drivers are employees, then Uber would have to face numerous law suits and/or change its business practices. 

Just because the contract between Uber and its drivers labels them “independent contractors” doesn’t mean the court will find that they are.  Courts are more concerned about how much control Uber exercises over its drivers than what they call them. For now, the federal judge in the Uber case has found that it is too close to call as a matter of law whether Uber drivers are independent contractors or employees.  This is definitely a case to watch. The ultimate outcome will determine whether or not Uber is liable for the conduct of its drivers, potentially opening it up to numerous law suits.  

Often businesses will treat workers as independent contractors, even if they should truly be treated as an employee.  If you’re being categorized as an independent contractor but are being treated more like an employee, McNamara Law Firm can help you understand your rights. 

If you’re a business owner that uses independent contractors, we can help ensure the court will treat them as such and help you avoid vicarious liability!