Briefing

Supreme Court hears arguments in Uber case with major gig economy implications

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The ride-sharing company is challenging an Ontario court’s decision that allowed a class action to proceed, led by an Uber Eats driver claiming workers like him are employees, not contractors. Uber originally got the action stayed thanks to an arbitration clause in its driver agreement, which requires disputes to be mediated under Dutch law, costing drivers US$14,500. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Uber’s lawyers argued, among other things, that the Supreme Court of Canada’s own previous rulings in arbitration cases mean that it’s up to an arbitrator to decide if the clause is valid. But the driver’s lawyers said the clause was essentially unfair, a position with which the lower court had agreed. In questions Wednesday to lawyers for Uber and arbitration organizations that intervened on its side, the Supreme Court judges focused on the terms of Uber’s clause; Justice Malcolm Rowe compared it to “a door to a brick wall.” If Uber’s challenge is unsuccessful, the drivers will still need a court to certify their suit as a class action, then win that suit to be classified as employees.