Uber seeks ruling on whether drivers are entitled to compensation for time waiting

By Carrie Salls | Jan 16, 2018

PHILADELPHIA – Uber Technologies Inc. has asked the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to reconsider a ruling that addressed the issue of whether Uber drivers who are online waiting for ride requests are entitled to compensation for that time. 

U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson, in September, opted to send the matter to trial rather than making a ruling.

The defendants said they disagreed with the court’s decision to continue the case, “indicating that it would prefer to address this issue on a ‘factual record, with cross-examination and subject to the Rules of Evidence, so that any final legal decisions can better rest on a trial record, rather than on the dueling papers that are inherently part of Rule 56 litigation.’”

“Defendants respectfully suggest that it was a clear error of law and a manifest injustice to leave for another day the ‘important’ and ‘potentially dispositive’ legal question of whether merely being online is a compensable work activity,” the reconsideration motion said. 

“Plaintiffs are not entitled to a trial where it has already been established that all material facts are not in dispute. At this point, there is nothing left for a jury to resolve.”

In addition, Uber said in its motion that “upon reconsideration, the undisputed material facts and guiding case law can lead only to the conclusion that merely being online is not compensable ‘work’ as a matter of law.”

In his Sept. 13 opinion, Baylson said plaintiffs Ali Razak, Kenan Sabani and Khaldoun Cherdoud claimed that Uber’s rules give the company the right “to suspend or deactivate drivers’ accounts if they cancel too many, or accept too few, trips,” meaning that they must be on the ready to accept jobs any time they are on-call.

However, Baylson said in his opinion that “plaintiffs have failed to show any instances where these reservations of right are ever exercised in the Philadelphia area, much less that any reserved consequences have ever been imposed on plaintiffs themselves.”

Baylson acknowledged that the short time given to drivers to respond to trip requests “may reasonably be considered a requirement that drivers are required by Uber to be tethered to their phones while online,” and the fact “that drivers are automatically switched from online to offline after ignoring three trip requests could reasonably be considered a severe restriction on their ability to engage in personal activities.

“A reasonable juror could also find that drivers are not meaningfully in control of their time if they are not told the rider’s destination before accepting a trip,” the opinion said.

As a result of these rules, Baylson said “the court cannot conclude that plaintiffs’ time online is not compensable as a matter of law.”

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