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France – Paris Court rules in favour of Uber driver in landmark employment case

14 January 2019

Human cloud ride-sharing giant Uber lost an appeal in France against one of its former drivers over his employment status.

The ruling in a French court last week could have an impact on gig economy workers and also overturns a ruling from last year that saw a French labour tribunal rule in favour of Uber.

Fabien Masson, a lawyer for the plaintiff, hailed the Paris Court of Appeal’s ruling as a "landmark decision".

The ruling also follows a similar UK court judgement in 2016 when a London employment tribunal ruled in favour of Uber drivers.

The former driver in France first sued Uber in June 2017, two months after the firm had deactivated his account.  He sued to have his “commercial accord” reevaluated as an employment contract.

According to the Court, the former driver’s contract deactivation deprived him “of the possibility to get new reservations". The driver was also seeking reimbursement for holidays and expenses as well as indemnities for "undeclared work" and contract termination.

Uber has long maintained that it is simply a service provider, connecting people who need a ride with drivers.

However, the Paris court ruling specifies that the contract between Uber and its former driver was "an employment contract" on the basis that the driver was dependent on the app for work.

Furthermore, the Court also noted that the plaintiff had signed a "registration partnership" with the company which did not give him the freedom to choose his clients or charge his own rates. Thereby, the Court ruled that Uber had "control" over the driver.

Uber stated that it would appeal the ruling to La Cour De Cassation, France's highest appeal court.

An Uber spokeswoman said that the appeal was to "preserve flexibility" where "drivers can decide to connect in real time and without any requirement of exclusivity."

In 2017, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Uber is a transport company, which means that EU member states can regulate the ride-hailing firm as a transport company — the same category as taxi companies.

The Uber driver’s victory last week is also similar to a recent case in November 2018 which saw the Cour de Cassation rule that a delivery rider using the services of an online food delivery platform Take Eat Easy, may be considered to be an employee of the platform provider despite being labelled self-employed.

Fiona Coombe, Director of Legal and Regulatory Research, SIA commented “These cases follow established law in that the more control an employer exerts over a worker, the more likely they are to be an employee. However, it is yet another blow to the operating model used by companies like Uber and makes it more difficult for them and others to argue they are not employers”.

For more on legal developments affecting workforce solutions, SIA members can refer to the latest Europe Legal Update.

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