Uber Appeals Driver’s Class Certification

This is a follow up on our previous post, “Attorney for plaintiffs in Uber employment misclassification suit seeks class-action status.” On September 1, 2015, U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order certifying a class of California drivers who allege that Uber Technologies Inc. (“Uber”) misclassified them as independent contractors.

Judge Chen ruled that drivers who signed Uber’s 2014 arbitration clause and those who signed up for the service through intermediary companies, rather than as individuals, are excluded from the class. However, the order has not reached a final judgment and the parties are still engaged in class certification briefings. As a result, the final parameters of the class are still subject to change.

Uber filed an interlocutory appeal on September 15, 2015, requesting that the Ninth Circuit reverse Judge Chen’s certification of the class because, it alleges, the case is an issue of importance on developing law, and the fate of the ride-hailing industry should not rest on a single jury.

An appeal is interlocutory when it is filed before all claims are resolved as to all parties. Generally, courts disfavor such appeals because they want the parties to wait until all the relevant claims are resolved before an appeal can challenge any decision made by the judge. However, there are exceptions that arise under specific circumstances, particularly if the party filing an interlocutory appeal believes that waiting would be prejudicial to its rights. For example, a party that seeks immunity from a suit may be recognized because being forced to wait for a final order would violate its right not to be subjected to a trial at all.

The drivers contend that Uber’s petition was prematurely presented because the parties are still discussing the parameters of the class. They argue that allowing Uber’s appeal to proceed at this time would lead to piecemeal appeals, which courts have recognized could be perilous to granting review of class certification orders that have not been finalized. They also insist the high level of importance of the suit should not be considered sufficient grounds to deny class certification.

Judge Chen is overseeing the instant suit and drivers’ related putative labor class actions. He said he wants to consolidate the cases because, despite the difference of issues, the answers to those issues center on the common issue of whether Uber drivers should be considered employees or independent contractors. This determination could have a far-reaching impact on the ride-hailing industry and could determine the long-term viability of the Uber business model.

The legal team at SFMS has significant experience litigating employment and products liability matters. If you have any questions regarding this subject or this posting, please contact Valerie Chang (vchang@sfmslaw.com) or Alec Berin (aberin@sfmslaw.com). We can also be reached toll-free at (866) 540-5505.

Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah, LLP is a law firm with offices in California, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. SFMS also maintains an affiliate office in London, England and is an active member of Integrated Advisory Group (www.iaginternational.org), which provides us with the ability to provide our clients with access to excellent legal and accounting resources throughout the globe. For more information about our firm, please visit us at www.sfmslaw.com.

The case is O’Connor et al. v. Uber Technologies Inc. et al., case number 3:13-cv-03826, in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California.


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Greene, Kat. “Uber Seeks Review Of Class Cert. In Closely Watched Tips Suit.” Law360. Last modified September 15, 2015.