The poster child for the “gig economy” is Uber. Since arriving on the scene, it has been the held as the standard for people looking to work side jobs to make extra money. Uber has disrupted the taxi industry through the world with their “democratizing” effect on driving taxis. No longer will a medallion and a hack license be needed. Through Uber the only requirements to drive a taxi are a car and insurance. The company advertises the possibility of making good money while at the same time providing the flexibility to a full time worker to keep their job or work other side jobs. They claim they are not an employer, but a platform that acts as a meeting place for workers and the company. In recent years, Uber has been the subject of various lawsuits and fights. Regulators are looking closely at the company’s operations and there has been some complaints and forthcoming litigation from Uber drivers about their compensation package. People who work with those kinds of companies are in a kind of limbo because their roles are not completely defined. In some ways, they are regarded as freelance or independent contractors because of the flexibility the employers provide. However, people who work for those kinds of companies claim their expenses aren’t reimbursed and they are required to go above and beyond what an independent contractor is supposed to do.
Some Uber drivers have echoed this complaint and have filed a class action lawsuit against the company. They are alleging Uber has not reimbursed them for expenses like gas, vehicle maintenance, and misrepresenting the drivers receive a tip when that is not the case. A trial has been set for June 2016 and the plaintiffs are pushing for change in the company’s practices. These types of lawsuits fall under the Wage & Hour section of the law. There has been an increase in litigation regarding issues like wrongful termination and wage loss in recent years. The ascendancy of the gig economy and companies like Uber and the effects of the recession has put the spotlight back on employment law issues. As the trial date approaches, the whole world will be watching because the repercussions will extend to numerous parts of society. Since Uber, other companies have developed similar models for other parts of labor and will have to look at how they do things when the decision of this case gets handed down.