Judge Drives Uber Suit Out, Says It’s ‘Clear’ What California Voters Want

In case Uber drivers in California didn’t get the message in November, a federal judge is helping drive home the message: “The will of the voters is clearly against” a group trying to sue for employee misclassification. 

The drivers, represented by Ronald L. Zambrano of West Coast Trial Lawyers APLC, were pushing to continue with their suit at a videoconference hearing in February.  The hearing was related to a motion to dismiss filed by Uber in light of the passing of Proposition 22– the most expensive ballot measure in U.S. history that allowed app-based drivers an exemption from California’s gig labor law, or AB5. 

“The landscape of this case has certainly changed,” U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton

told Ronald L. Zambrano of West Coast Trial Lawyers APLC, according to Law360.com. “The will of the voters is clearly against your clients’ interest in this particular lawsuit.”

Among the reasons Zambrano provided for why the claims should indeed proceed in Nicholas et al. v. Uber Technologies Inc was that the drivers have federal claims not impacted by Prop. 22.  He also noted that Prop 22 is not retroactive. 

The drivers originally sued back in December of 2019, nearly a year before Proposition 22 was passed by California voters.  They claimed that because they were “misclassified” as independent contractors — the very matter that the proposition settled — they lost out on minimum wage and overtime pay.  They also claimed they’d missed out on things like proper wage statements, which come with hefty fines in California. 

The drivers have been taking a windy road to this point in time: many of the 48 were sent to arbitration in July, some filed another amended complaint in December and then again in January.

Through it all, Hamilton said the drivers were lacking information and support for their arguments. 

“During [the February] hearing and in briefs, Uber argued that the drivers’ state claims fail under the common law doctrine of abatement, arguing that even if Prop 22 does not apply retroactively, the drivers’ claims were not ‘vested’ by a final judgment” according to Law360.

The drivers, though, say that abatement doesn’t apply in this case.  Their attorney is pushing for at least consideration of back pay between February and September of 2019. 

The judge is taking the arguments of both parties under submission.

This is just one of a handful of cases related to Uber and Lyft workers that continues to make its way through the courts.