Uber driver class-action in Ontario can proceed following court ruling

Published: January 5, 2019

Updated: January 6, 2019

Author: Luke Jones

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Ontario Uber drivers can proceed with a lawsuit against the company through a class action after the court of appeal said drivers should not have to resolve employment issues through arbitration in the Netherlands.

Toronto-based Uber drivers proposed a class-action in 2017, claiming they are entitled to full protection under the Employment Standards Act. Uber sees its drivers as independent contractors as it merely provides the platform for them to work, not the tools. It is an arrangement that allows the company to avoid the cost of full employee rights.

The Ontario suit was initially prevented from moving forward because Uber contested (successfully) that the agreement drivers enter into states any disputes must be resolved through Dutch-based arbitration. It’s another clever tactic from the company as most class actions will shut down instead of paying the heavy costs of a legal battle in the Netherlands.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal in Ontario rejected Uber’s claims, allowing a class-action against the company to potentially move ahead.

“The Arbitration Clause constitutes a contracting out of the (Employment Standards Act),” the ruling said. “It eliminates the right of the appellant (or any other driver) to make a complaint to the Ministry of Labour regarding the actions of Uber and their possible violation of the requirements of the ESA.”

“I believe that it can be safely concluded that Uber chose this Arbitration Clause in order to favour itself and thus take advantage of its drivers, who are clearly vulnerable to the market strength of Uber,” the decision adds.

“It is a reasonable inference that Uber did so knowingly and intentionally.”

Uber spokesperson Josh McConnell said the company is “reviewing the decision”.