Are Uber Drivers Employees?

Recently, Uber and Lyft were in the news and it wasn’t for some feel good reason, or because some new celebrity decided to dress up in disguise and drive around unsuspecting passengers until some big reveal. No, they’re in the news now because they threatened to shut down operations in California, during the middle of a pandemic.  The threat of a shutdown was made after a judge ruled that Uber and Lyft had been misclassifying drivers in violation of California Assembly Bill 5 or AB-5. Uber and Lyft were not happy with the decision, so they filed an appeal and threatened to shut down operations in California.

Why Is A California Case Important Here?

You may be thinking, why do we care about what’s going on in California when we are in Ohio? Well, there’s a couple of reasons for that. First, California is usually at the forefront of employee rights. So things that happen in California can help trigger nationwide policy change. Second, the gig economy is huge and it’s growing more and more every day. It includes services like Lyft and Uber, but also Grubhub, DoorDash, Instacart, and other similar services. You’d be hard pressed to find somebody who doesn’t know at least one person who’s either worked in the gig economy at some point in time, has thought about working in the gig economy, or gets all of their income from the gig economy.  Any decision that affects some aspect of the gig economy is an important thing to look at besides that one of the bigger issues is there are a huge implications for employees, or people who are considered independent contractors versus employees.

Difference Between Independent Contractor and Employee

As an independent contractor, your remedies for something happening to you are really just limited to contract claims. There’s not really much protection for somebody who is an independent contractor. But if you’re considered an employee, then you get all those different protections for race discrimination, gender discrimination, sexual harassment claims, those types of things that currently are not afforded to drivers or workers in the gig economy because of their independent contractor status. So it’s always important to know what that distinction is and determine where that distinction applies.

How to Determine If You’re an Independent Contractor or an Employee

There are a lot of different methods used to determine if someone is an independent contractor or an employee. You’ll see numerous factor tests, that differ not just based on what state you’re in, but also what your particular claims may be.  It can be really confusing for somebody to understand if you’re not well-versed in it.

The one key thing to remember though, is to look at the level of control. In other words, how much does the company control your actions? If your company is making your schedule for you or telling you when you need to come in to work, there is a good chance you could be an employee instead of an independent contractor.


I’ll keep track of this case because of the huge implications it has for gig economy workers and the gig economy is such a growing segment of the workforce now. I think it’s important to see how this independent contractor versus employee battle will play out.

Are Uber Drivers Employees? Gig Economy showdown in CaliforniaClick To Tweet

James J. Hux is the Owner and Sole Attorney at Hux Law Firm, LLC. His practice areas include employment discrimination and general civil litigation throughout the State of Ohio.