Uber drivers operate as contractors for the company. Being a contractor gives drivers more freedom, but it also waives some protections that traditional employees receive. If Uber says your account is deactivated, you may not have much in the way of legal recourse.
Can you sue Uber for wrongful termination? That depends on your contract, but the chances are slim that you have a case.
“Savvy human resources officers make sure that all employees understand that they work as employees at will — in other words, either party to the contract is free to terminate it for any reason or no reason,” explains law firm Schaefer Halleen.
While there are exceptions for employees, the rules are a little different for independent contractors. In this case, Uber can decide it no longer wants to use a driver’s services for just about any reason at all.
In 2014, Uber came under fire for its sketchy firing policies. One ex-driver sued the company for unlawful termination. The former employee alleged that the company “fired” him for findings in his credit report. The ex-driver, Abdul Mohamed, filed the suit in a San Francisco court, claiming the company violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
The lawsuit states that Abdul was not given any warning or notice about the decision, which would have given him an opportunity to respond to the allegations.
Unfortunately, Abdul had signed an arbitration agreement. In 2016, the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court ruled that the question of unlawful termination should be delegated to arbitration.
The court’s decision may mean that all drivers must deal with Uber individually and cannot bring a class action suit against the company over its background check system.
Uber’s shady firing policies have been criticized by the media on several occasions, and this case is not the first to make headlines.
One Uber driver from Boston, Richard Boese, was fired after hosting an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit. Boese discussed the good and bad aspects of driving for the company, but Boston.com wrote an article on the AMA, stating that he “ripped” the rideshare service.
Two weeks later, Boese was fired. Uber refused to answer his emails asking why, and the company would not discuss the issue with the media.
Uber has been hit with several lawsuits alleging that Uber drivers aren’t actually independent contractors, but actual employees who should be awarded labor protections. Such protections would give drivers the right to unionize and collectively bargain.
“The ability to fire at will is an important factor in showing a company’s workers are employees, not independent contractors,” says attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, who is leading a class-action suit against Uber.
The company has paid out millions of dollars in order to settle these lawsuits and ensure that drivers remain independent contractors. The question of employee status has not yet been settled in court, and more suits will likely arise in the future as the “gig” economy continues to expand.
It’s still unclear what Uber’s firing policies would have to look like in order to have drivers be considered independent contractors. As of right now, drivers can be terminated for criticizing the company on social media without facing legal hurdles.