“Uber driver independent contractor not employee”: NZ Employment Court

The driver had complaint against unjust dismissal when his access to the Uber Driver app was deactivated

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New Zealand’s Employment Court recently declared an Uber driver as an independent contractor and not an employee.

The concerned driver, Arachchige, had joined in 2015 after signing a Services Agreement with Rasier NZ and Uber BV (both members of the Uber Group), which clearly stated that he was “an independent provider of peer-to-peer passenger transportation services’. By transporting passengers, apparently a “legal and direct business relationship” was created between him and the passengers. Similarly, by providing Uber services, Rasier NZ had created “a legal and direct business relationship between Rasier NZ and Arachchige”. Also, by providing Arachchige an Uber BV licence for the Uber Driver App, a “legal and direct business relationship” had been created between Uber BV and him. Therefore, neither Rasier NZ nor Uber BV could direct or control him.

In four years, from 2015 to 2019, Arachchige used the Uber Driver App and undertook 5,623 of the trip requests he received via the Uber Driver App and rejected about 448 requests.

When Uber received a complaint from a passenger about Arachchige, he was blocked from accessing the Uber Driver App. Being unaware of what exactly the complaint was and having been deprived of a chance to defend himself, Arachchige filed a complaint for being wrongly dismissed, as per the New Zealand Employment Relations Act.

However, the Employment Court ruled that as per New Zealand law, Section 6 of the country’s Employment Relations Act requires the Court to first determine ‘the real nature of the relationship’ between the parties. And the Court found that the Services Agreement suggested there was no employment relationship between the driver and Uber.

One reason being that the Agreement entered into did not restrict Arachchige to working for Uber alone, not were they required to carry the Uber logo/signage on their vehicles. Also, among other conditions, the drivers themselves decided when and for how long they wished to undertake services. Therefore, the complainant was not entitled to bring a personal grievance under the Employment Relations Act.