A California government agency has hit Uber with a $7.3 million fine for withholding information from regulators, the Associated Press reports. The California Public Utilities Commission ruled on Wednesday that the ride-sharing service has 30 days to pay up or risk having its California license suspended.
The ruling was handed down as a result of Uber refusing to give out information about its business operations–specifically, details like why accidents occur, where drivers may decline to accept a ride, and whether the company’s vehicles are equipped to transport the disabled. The commission permits companies like Lyft and Uber to operate freely, as long as they are transparent about their practices. The CPUC ruled that Rasier-CA, Uber’s parent company in California, had failed to provide the necessary information, though it claimed otherwise.
According to BuzzFeed News, Uber argued in a statement that giving out any additional details was unfair to both its drivers and customers, and noted that it will appeal the ruling:
This ruling — and the associated fine — are deeply disappointing. We will appeal the decision as Uber has already provided substantial amounts of data to the California Public Utilities Commission, information we have provided elsewhere with no complaints. Going further risks compromising the privacy of individual riders as well as driver-partners. These CPUC requests are also beyond the remit of the Commission and will not improve public safety.
The decision is the latest in a series that calls into question Uber’s relationship with its drivers. In June, the California Labor Commission concluded that former Uber driver Barbara Ann Berwick should have been classified as an employee. On Wednesday, BuzzFeed News reports, the Department of Labor released a document that outlines why most U.S. workers should be considered employees, not contractors:
The guidance stresses all factors should be considered in service of “the ultimate determination of whether the worker is really in business for him or herself (and thus is an independent contractor) or is economically dependent on the employer (and thus is its employee).”
Harvard labor law professor Benjamin Sachs told BuzzFeed News that the memo “clarifies the DOL’s view of what it means to be an employee for purposes of minimum wage, overtime, and family leave. Courts that defer to this interpretation are likely to conclude that Uber and Lyft drivers — and most other on-demand workers — fit the bill. After all, according to the labor department, you can be an ‘employee’ even if you set your own schedule and even if your work is never directly supervised.”
At the moment, Uber is also facing a class-action lawsuit, which the company recently filed a motion against. The Department of Labor’s updated interpretation of labor laws could have a significant impact on how that case plays out.
[via BuzzFeed News]