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Tech by VICE

Uber Appeals Class Action Status, Insists It's Not a Cab Company

Uber is doubling down on the notion that it's a technology company first and foremost.

by Sarah Jeong
Sep 16 2015, 9:53pm

To no one's surprise, Uber is seeking to appeal the big court decision from last week that allowed a California employment lawsuit against the company to proceed as a class action.

Judge Edward Chen's ruling to certify the class meant that Uber was pitched into a battle with potentially 160,000 drivers. Uber has suggested that due to restrictions placed on drivers by the specific contracts they signed, only 15,000 drivers are eligible to be included in the class action. Lawyers for the plaintiffs have responded that Uber's estimate "sounds low" (though the company has not released an official estimate of its own).

But even if you take Uber's estimate at face value, 15,000 is still a lot of people. Small wonder then that the company appealed the certification order up to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Uber's arguments are more or less the same they presented at the certification hearing—a handful of disgruntled drivers are too different from the rest to be able to represent the whole. But the rhetoric of the case as a whole has taken an interesting shift. Uber's legal team—which was recently replaced by new lawyers in April—is pushing hard to persuade everyone that Uber is first and foremost a technology company. The Uber service is referred to as a "software application that generates leads." The employment contracts that bind drivers to Uber are called "software licensing agreements."

This can only be viewed as an aggressive doubling down after Judge Chen's opinion in March, which included the scathing line, "Uber is no more a 'technology company' than Yellow Cab is a 'technology company' because it uses CB radios to dispatch taxi cabs, John Deere is a 'technology company' because it uses computers and robots to manufacture lawn mowers, or Domino Sugar is a 'technology company' because it uses modern irrigation techniques to grow its sugar cane."

Uber filed its request to appeal on Tuesday. The 9th Circuit will likely take a few weeks to respond.