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Uber Hit with Proposed Class Action in California

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Los Angeles, CAA California labor lawsuit brought by a Uber driver likens a pricing model observed by Uber to stiffing drivers of proper wages as required under California labor law. For its part, co-defendant Uber Technologies Inc. disagrees with plaintiff Sophano Van’s allegations and is trying to have the lawsuit tossed.

As outlined in Law360 (11/20/17), Van asserts that Uber, through the Uber app, prices a fare based on the longest possible route, and thus the longest trip time. Drivers however are required to use the shortest route possible. Van asserts that not only are passengers paying an inflated fare, but that drivers are not sharing in that fare structure (as they are paid based on the actual time and the route taken, rather than the projected route and time charged to the customer).

The California lawsuit, originally filed in April and amended in August, asserts that Uber deliberately manipulated the navigation data used in determining the fare amount paid by its users, and the amount reported and paid to its drivers. The lawsuit went on to assert that the software which calculates the upfront price displayed, and charged to app users – also calculates the expected distance and time using a route that is often longer in both distance and time to the one shown in the driver’s app.

As a result, plaintiff Van asserts, drivers were deprived of the total fares collected minus the 20, to 25 percent service and booking fees charged to the driver by Uber.

In sum, the lawsuit asserts, users were charged based on the longer assumed route and thus paid an inflated fare, whereas the driver who accepted the trip based on the higher assumed fare, was paid less based on the requirement to take the shortest, most direct route.

Uber’s response is to assert that Van’s claims suggesting breach of contract, conversion and fraud are without merit, and deficient. In its brief, Uber maintains the fare paid to drivers is based upon a base amount plus additional compensation for actual distance and / or length of time to complete the trip.

“Plaintiff’s fraud claim also fails because he has not identified the specific allegations giving rise to the ‘who, what, when, and where’ of Uber’s supposed fraud or that confer a duty on Uber to disclose any information it allegedly concealed from him or other drivers,” Uber said, in court on November 17.

Van’s California labor lawsuit also takes exception with the classification of Uber drivers as independent contractors when, in fact they are employees of Uber operating within the parameters of the Uber app, or so the California labor lawsuit asserts.

“[Drivers] are required to follow a litany of detailed requirements imposed on them by Uber and they are graded, and are subject to termination, based on their failure to adhere to these requirements (such as rules regarding their conduct with customers, the cleanliness of their vehicles, their timeliness in picking up customers and taking them to their destination, what they are allowed to say to customers, etc.),” the complaint says.

The California labor code lawsuit is proposed as a class action seeking to represent all California-based drivers operating under UberPool UberX, Uber Select, Uber Black and Uber SUV. Amongst other allegations, Van has put forward claims of violations against the California Private Attorneys General Act.

The California labor law class action names Uber Technologies Inc. as well as subsidiaries Rasier LLC and Rasier-CA LLC. The case is Van v. Rasier LLC et al., Case No. 2:17-cv-02550, in the US District Court for the Central District of California.

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