It was bound to happen. As I noted here last year, Uber has been facing challenges to its work model in multiple jurisdictions.
A class action was recently filed in Ontario, focusing on the employee/independent contractor distinction, but also raising some other interesting arguments. In particular, the plaintiffs claim that the arbitration agreement that Uber drivers are forced to sign is in contravention of the Employment Standards Act and unfair, as it requires class members to travel to Amsterdam, Netherlands to resolve their disputes.
Despite being a highly mobile workforce, the route from Ontario to the Netherlands by car is a lengthy and costly one.
One of the basic rights under the ESA are that workers can file a complaint to the Ministry of Labour, or file in the court within the jurisdiction. Both the Ministry and the Superior Court of Justice are situated in Ontario. Parties to an arbitration agreement may also seek a stay under s. 7(2) of the Arbitration Act.
Although there are some important issues of fairness and precarious work with innovative technological models such as this, it’s also quite clear that our existing regulatory environment is likely to inhibit and stifle small business growth that does not follow conventional models of delivery. Uber is likely to demonstrate how it is a work creator, particularly for marginalized workers like racialized minorities and people with disabilities, in an attempt to demonstrate the strong public interest in promoting their model of work.
I won’t comment on the action further until it reaches a certification motion, but I’ve made the Statement of Claim available here.
Perhaps with an interest in to assist with legal reforms, Uber was one of the companies on the American President’s economic council. Concerns over political actions taken there, and reactions from Uber users, have resulted in them withdrawing from that role.