Judge Denies Uber and Lyft Delay in Classifying Drivers as Employees

As it stands, Uber and Lyft now have one week until they are forced to stop misclassifying their drivers.
August 13, 2020, 10:48pm
On Thursday, a California judge denied motions by Uber and Lyft to extend a 10 day stay on his ruling that the ride-hailing companies end the misclassification of their California drivers as independent contractors, not employees, in order to appeal it.
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On Thursday, a California judge denied motions by Uber and Lyft to extend a 10 day stay on his ruling that the ride-hailing companies end the misclassification of their California drivers as independent contractors, not employees, in order to appeal it.

“I am confident that the court of appeal is capable of acting very quickly where it is necessary for it to do so,” said Judge Ethan Schulman at the San Francisco Superior Court hearing. “I am unconvinced that any extension of the 10 day stay is required. Both applications are denied."

In his Monday ruling, Schulman was quick to dismiss the usual ride-hailing legal defenses. In response to Uber's self-description as a technology company, Schulman wrote Uber's "entire business is that of transporting passengers with compensation." On the question of driver classification, Schulman said that drivers would be considered employees "under any reasonable understanding of the English language." 

Schulman went on to add that while Uber and Lyft claimed the injunction would cause "grave or irreparable” harm, it would not "outweigh the harm to drivers, competing businesses, and the general public in absence of an injunction."

On Wednesday, Uber threatened to suspend operations in California if it did not get its way, an old strategy to circumvent regulation that is now being adopted by Lyft. Lyft President John Zimmer said on the company's second-quarter earnings call later that day that the ride-hailing company would likely join Uber if the ruling could not be overturned or a stay was not extended.

A Lyft spokesperson told Motherboard that they still intend to appeal the ruling on the stay and continue to seek an extension  by the end of this week. Uber did not return Motherboard’s request for comment. 

As it stands, both companies still have until August 20th before they’re forced to start complying with California law.