Uber: Playing Fair in the “Sharing Economy”?

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by Jennifer L. Villier, JD | Business Law Faculty, WealthCounsel

Uber is facing many questions and challenges related its business model. However, the biggest issue currently confronting the upstart company – and the one most instructive to industries and employers nationwide – is whether Uber’s drivers are employees or independent contractors.

This article (i) summarizes the pending class action lawsuit, O'Connor v Uber, against Uber by its drivers, (ii) considers the likely outcome given recent U.S. Department of Labor advice and other recent case law, and (iii) ultimately concludes that the independent contractor vs. employee distinction is one likely to continue to make headlines in 2016 and beyond as the sharing economy is fueled by the growth of companies like Uber. The lessons and lingering questions surrounding Uber’s business model are instructive to business planning attorneys representing clients on matters pertaining to the structuring of work arrangements with employees and independent contractors.

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