Supreme Court of Canada could open door to class action against Uber

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Canada’s highest court will rule this morning in a case involving the Uber carpool service that could have far-reaching implications for the concert economy and labor rights in Canada.The Supreme Court of Canada decision will determine whether a $ 400 million class action proposed by Uber Ontario drivers can go ahead.

Uber challenges Ontario Court of Appeal decision that the company’s contract clause, which relies on costly arbitration in the Netherlands to settle disputes, was “inadmissible” and “not applicable”.

The lower court’s decision came after David Heller, an UberEATS driver, attempted to launch a class action in 2017 to force the company to recognize its drivers as employees rather than independent contractors.

UberEATS driver David Heller has taken legal action against the transportation company after being asked to accept pay changes on his phone in order to continue working for the company. (CBC)

Heller, who no longer works for Uber, filed a lawsuit after receiving a message on his cell phone asking him to accept changes to the way he is compensated.

His lawyer, Lior Samfiru, said that Heller agreed because he was delivering in Toronto at the time – and would not have been paid if he had refused.

“If the court agrees with Uber, then each company can ask its employees to sign a document that says the same thing,” said Samfiru.

“It would mean that companies can do whatever they want with impunity. “

Are people in the concert economy employees?

Uber has obtained the suspension of the proposed class action before the Ontario Superior Court because of a contract clause which requires that all disputes between the drivers and the company go through a mediation process in the Netherlands a personal cost of US $ 14,500 for drivers.

“Virtually no one will do that,” said Samfiru.

Toronto-based employment lawyer Lior Samfiru said the case involving Uber comes down to corporate responsibility. (Andy Hincenberg / CBC)

Heller, who had been licensed to use the Uber Driver app since February 2016 in Toronto, made between $ 20,800 and $ 31,200 a year before taxes and expenses.

In November 2018, Ontario’s highest court ruled that the Uber clause was unlawfully contracting out an employment standard.

Uber’s contends that arbitration, not the courts, is the right forum to decide the validity of an arbitration agreement.

The proposed class action, which has not yet been certified, aims to provide a minimum wage, vacation pay and other protections under the Ontario Employment Standards Act to everyone who works for Uber or who has worked for the company in Ontario since 2012.

If the highest court rules in his favor, Samfiru said it would open up a discussion of whether people in the concert economy are employees.

“We cannot have a system where companies can do what they want, when they want, without any repercussions,” said Samfiru.

“The only way to compensate for this inequality is to give individuals access to the courts, such as the Labor Relations Board, or to our courts across the country. “

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