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Classification of workers at heart of Uber business litigation

Recently, the word "Uber" has gotten a lot of attention in popular American culture. Big cities all over the country have begun to allow private individuals with their own insured cars to connect to a taxi-like service platform that allows them to charge fares for driving strangers around their communities. Some New Jersey residents may have used this service, which is affectionately known by the platform's name -- Uber.

Uber is a distinctive business. Unlike a traditional taxi company that employs drivers and centralizes control of its operations, Uber is simply a technology platform through which service providers and service consumers may connect. Uber retains drivers through what it has termed a license agreement and treats those drivers as contractors rather than employees.

However, some Uber drivers are now suing the company for employee-like rights and protections. A federal district court judge is deciding if those drivers may be grouped together based on their likeness in order to pursue their claims under a class action lawsuit. Uber has claimed that its drivers do not share similarities because each driver sets the person's own schedule and commits however time to the driving platform that the person wants. Representatives for the drivers claim that drivers perform similar functions and that they are alike enough to be a class action.

This unique story of business litigation shows just how diverse the realm of business and corporate legal action can be. Employment disputes in traditional brick and mortar buildings are morphing into highly technical arguments over the proper classification of workers who may never even know that each operates for the same organization. As this matter moves forward, Uber may have its business practices and organizations challenged by workers whose statuses as independent contractors are changed to be recognized as employees.

Source: Fortune.com, "Uber labor lawsuit hinges on whether drivers are similar enough for class action status," Kia Kokalitcheva, Aug. 7, 2015

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