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Uber Drivers Are Employees, Oregon Regulator Says

Uber Drivers Are Employees, Oregon Regulator Says
[Photo: Flickr user Mike McCune]

An Oregon regulator asserted on Wednesday that Uber drivers should be classified as employees under state law, an announcement that could impact the company’s operations there, The Oregonian reports.

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Brad Avakian, commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, stated in an advisory opinion that Uber drivers should count as employees under Oregon law because they benefit the company and are financially dependent on it, despite being able to use their own cars and choose when they want to work.

The opinion serves as guidance and will have no immediate effect, but could prompt dissatisfied drivers or legislators to take up the issue in court. That’s what’s been happening in California, where a district judge granted class-action status last month to a lawsuit that alleges Uber drivers were misclassified as contract workers. If the case is successful, tens of thousands of drivers could potentially be reclassified as employees—upending Uber’s business model. In June, the California Labor Commission ruled that a former Uber driver was in fact an employee and asked the company to reimburse her, but the decision did not apply to other Uber workers.

Avakian’s opinion did not mention other businesses that rely on contracted labor, such as Lyft or Instacart, but future regulation could impact the gig economy, at least in Oregon. “I would expect that [Uber] would provide their employees all the benefits and protections they’re entitled to under Oregon law,” Avakian told Portland-based newspaper Willamette Week.

Uber, meanwhile, said it was surprised by the findings and strongly disagreed with them. An Uber spokeswoman told the publication that Avakian’s opinion is “full of assertions that are plain wrong. It’s disappointing that a public body would have so little regard for the facts.”

[via The Oregonian]

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