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Uber fights back against driver lawsuit

Ride-hailing app says decision to grant class-action status to California suit is 'manifestly erroneous'

Uber this week moved to appeal a decision that grants class-action status to a lawsuit brought by its drivers. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the company filed a request for appeal on Tuesday, arguing that the ruling from US District Judge Edward Chen was "manifestly erroneous."

The lawsuit was brought by three Uber drivers who claim they are employees of the company, rather than independent contractors, and should therefore receive benefits including health coverage and workers' compensation. The case could have important implications for Uber and other so-called "sharing economy" companies that rely on contractor labor. Uber drivers seeking employee status earned an early victory in June, when the California Labor Commission ruled that one of the company's drivers is an employee, on the grounds that Uber "was involved in every aspect of the operation," and not just a service for managing logistics.

"I would be very surprised for it to be reversed."

Chen granted class-action status to the lawsuit earlier this month. The plaintiffs originally sought to include 160,000 drivers under the suit, though it will only apply to a minority of Uber drivers in California, as most relinquished their rights to class-action arbitration under new terms that were added to contracts last year. Following Chen's ruling, an Uber spokesperson told The Verge that the company would "most likely" file an appeal.

In the appeal, Uber's lawyer argued that the three drivers should not be considered as representative of the company's workforce, adding that the jury's decision in the case would have far-reaching ripple effects for other sharing economy startups. In an email to The Wall Street Journal, Shannon Liss-Riordan, the attorney representing the drivers, said she didn't expect the decision to be overturned.

"I would be very surprised for it to be reversed," Liss-Riordan wrote. "There is nothing novel about certifying these claims; independent contractor misclassification cases are typically addressed on a classwide basis."