Uber drivers are employees: subordination link

A recent decision from French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation, March 4, 2020) has stated that an

Uber driver is an employee of the “platform” and not an independent contractor using the Uber

system to find and charge his own clients.

Although such a “jurisprudence” or precedent has less impact in French law than in Common law

system, those decisions can influence every court where a similar case is debated.

With this decision the Supreme Court ruled in a very classic way, and the precedent can be applied to

numerous relations where contractors are, in fact, employees.

The contract is irrelevant

The first thing to know is that, in the French employment law system, the way the contract describes

the relations between parts is irrelevant if courts consider that the very core of the relation is an

employer/employee relation.

To summarize, a contract excluding employment law (even if parts agree on its terms) has no weight

whatsoever if a court consider that the relation is, in fact, an employment contract.

Definition of an employment contract by French courts

French courts usually qualify a relation as an employment contract if 3 conditions are fulfilled:

–         the “employee” is actually providing work, in any form,

–         the “employee” is paid for it

–         the “employee” is under the subordination of the employer

The most important of these conditions is the subordination link between the “employer” and the

“employee”.

It is described as the ability for the “employer” to give instructions, control the “employee’s” work,

and to sanction or penalize any default, non-fulfilment or breach in the “employee’s” execution of

those instructions.

Uber Case

In the Uber case, the supreme court has stated that the driver was in fact unable to develop his own

customer base (which are Uber’s), unable to apply his own rates grids, and could be sanctioned by

exclusion of the platform or reduction of his incomes if he didn’t comply with rules such as being

compelled to accept any cab ride whatever the destination, and follow routes imposed by the

platform.

Therefore he was considered as Uber’s employee.

Consequences

Among other condemnations, such an “employee” is able to ask for all wages he should have

received during the relation as a classic employee (up to 3 years back), requalify the end of this

relation (if it has ended, which was the case for Uber’s decision) in an unfair dismissal with all

economic consequences, and damages.

The employer can face administrative and criminal sanctions too.

 So one has to be very careful about the way the relation with a contractor is managed, such a

“requalification” can lead to important consequences

Cass. soc. 4 mars 2020, n° 19-13316 FPPBRI

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