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When Ubering Goes Wrong: A Lesson for Both Drunks And Employers

Uber is a wonderful invention that has a primary function of driving intoxicated people from point A to point B.  Sometimes, however, getting from point A to point B becomes an issue.

This week, a lawsuit was filed in Philadelphia against Uber, claiming that an Uber driver threw a rider from the car and beat him when he asked to be taken from Philadelphia to New Jersey.  The Uber driver did this because he did not want to “go to New Jersey.”  Without getting into the argument of whether someone has a valid reason for not wanting to go to New Jersey, this case raises a few issues.  The first is whether Uber has liability for the actions of its drivers.

The lawsuit claims Uber is liable because, contrary to Uber’s contentions, the drivers are not independent contractors but Uber employees.  The lawsuit supports this claim by asserting that Uber has control over the manner and means by which the drivers perform their jobs.  If the drivers are employees, the lawsuit then claims that Uber is liable under a theory of negligent hiring, supervision, and retention.  Essentially, the plaintiff claims that Uber should have taken steps to prevent the beating by engaging in a more thorough background check, providing better training or supervision, or having policies in place to prevent drivers who may engage in such actions from remaining employed.

While this case is in the early stages, employers may be able to learn from the potential mistakes of Uber.  First, if an employer has classified individuals as “independent contractors,” it should ensure that it has done so properly and that it has an effective agreement in place with the “contractors.”  Additionally, employers should have policies and procedures in place to ensure that its employees are effectively trained and supervised to avoid causes of action like the one now plaguing Uber.

Finally, Uber riders can learn from this and realize that asking for a ride to New Jersey is apparently never a good idea.

For questions about this or any other labor and employment topic, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Labor and Employment Department.