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
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
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
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
Therefore he was considered as Uber’s employee.
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