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Uber class-action lawsuit over how drivers were paid gets green light from judge

Uber class-action lawsuit over how drivers were paid gets green light from judge
A judge certified a class of more than 4,000 Uber drivers in a breach of contract class action lawsuit. (Dreamstime/TNS)

A class-action lawsuit alleging that Uber stiffed its drivers of fare money has received class certification, paving the way for the lawsuit to include thousands of drivers nationwide who did not sign an arbitration agreement with the San Francisco company.

The breach of contract lawsuit, filed in May in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, alleges that when Uber implemented a feature called "upfront pricing" in August 2016, it didn't pay drivers their fair share.

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Previously, the cost of Uber rides was calculated based on factors such as miles traveled and time. Passengers were charged accordingly at the end of the ride, and Uber passed along 80% of the fare to drivers, keeping 20% for itself.

The lawsuit alleges that when Uber introduced upfront pricing, it quoted and charged passengers a higher fare upfront, but continued to pay drivers based on previous calculations, which resulted in drivers receiving less than 80% of the total fare.

"Uber has failed to properly act as payment collection agent for Plaintiff and other drivers," the lawsuit read. "Uber's failure to pay the amounts promised under the Agreement and the Addendum is a material breach of the Agreement."

Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This isn't the first time Uber has been slapped with a lawsuit over the way it pays its drivers.

In April, Los Angeles Uber driver Sophano Van filed a similar class action, yet to be certified, alleging that Uber's upfront pricing practice was a breach of contract.

The company has also been sued for pocketing drivers' tips, and it faces lawsuits around the country about whether it owes drivers expense reimbursement and benefits.

In the certification order issued last week and made public Friday evening, Judge William Alsup determined that the class includes Uber drivers across the country who meet all of the following criteria:

  • Opted out of Uber’s arbitration provision.
  • Drove for UberX or UberSelect.
  • Transported a passenger who was charged an upfront fare before May 22, 2017, when Uber updated its driver fee schedule.
  • Made less money overall on rides because of the upfront pricing.

Uber produced ride-by-ride data for all drivers who opted out of arbitration, which resulted in about 4,600 drivers who could participate in the lawsuit, said Paul B. Maslo, a partner at law firm Napoli Shkolnik and lead counsel for the drivers.

"Without this decision, it would have likely been the end of the road for drivers seeking to recover for Uber's breach," he said.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

Drivers will have until March 22 to opt out of the lawsuit and pursue their own litigation.

Twitter: @traceylien

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