Employment Court issues landmark ruling that Uber drivers are employees of the ride-share company.

The Employment Court has ruled that four Uber drivers were employees of the global rideshare company, and not self-employed business people as Uber claimed.

The four plaintiffs in the case had sought a declaration that they were employees under Section 6 of the Employment Relations Act. Chief Judge Christina Inglis issued her ruling his morning, following a three week hearing in June.

Having been deemed to be employees, the drivers – three of whom no longer drive for the company – will be entitled to the statutory employment protections during the period they were with the company, including minimum wage, annual leave, sick leave, protection from unjust dismissal, and Kiwisaver contributions.

“Each of the plaintiff drivers was in an employment relationship when carrying out driving work for Uber and is entitled to a declaration of status accordingly,” Chief Judge Inglis concluded.

Nureddin Abdurahman and his family. Photo: Ehsan Hazaveh

Three of the drivers – Mea’ole Keil, Nureddin Abdurahman and Praful Rama – were jointly employed by both the global company, Uber BV, and Uber’s New Zealand subsidiary, variously named Rasier New Zealand and Rasier Operations BV. The fourth, Julian Ang, was employed by Rasier Operations BV.

Section 6 of the Act is the “touchstone” for determining if a person is an employee, and if so who the employer is. “It requires the Court to consider the real nature of the relationship. The real nature of the relationship in this case is joint employment,” ruled the judge.

She clarified that the decision has direct relevance only to the four plantiffs. “The Court does not have jurisdiction to make broader declarations of employment status to include, for example, all Uber drivers.

“It follows that there is no immediate legal impact in relation to other Uber drivers. In other words, they do not, as a result of this judgment, instantly become employees.”

However, this point “should not be misunderstood”.

“While a declaration attaches to the individual applicant worker it may well have broader impact, particularly where, as here, there is apparent uniformity in the way in which the companies operate, and the framework under which drivers are engaged.”

The case was brought by First Union and E tū union, which hailed today’s decision as “historic” and an important move against misclassification of workers as more people earn an income in the rising “gig” economy.

► Further reporting on the legal reasoning behind the decision to come.

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