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Image credit: Hannah Mckay / Reuters

Court rules Uber can force drivers into arbitration over pay, benefits

They can't continue pursuing class action lawsuits.
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Hannah Mckay / Reuters

Uber drivers hoping to be treated as employees may have to go it alone. A federal appeals court in San Francisco has overturned a ruling that would have allowed drivers to pursue their case as a class action lawsuit instead of going through individual arbitration (which, historically, favors companies over complainants). Judge Richard Clifton cited precedent as the reason, including both another ruling in favor of Uber from 2016 as well as a Supreme Court decision from May that said companies could make workers waive their right to class actions for a number of disputes.

Uber said in a statement that it was happy with the ruling. One of the lawyers for the drivers, Shannon Liss-Riordan, wasn't surprised by the outcome but also said attorneys were prepared to tackle cases "one by one." Thousands of drivers are pursuing arbitration, she said.

The company, along with competitors like Lyft, has historically opposed granting employee status to its drivers over the benefit costs and higher pay that would come with it. This creates a significant barrier by preventing whole groups of drivers from pursuing improved status. If there's any consolation to workers, it's that Uber can't ignore pay completely. It still has to fend off rival services, some of whom may pay more or offer perks.

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