The Status of Uber Drivers: A Purposive Approach
The status of Uber drivers – the question of whether they are independent contractors (as argued by Uber) or employees – has been the subject of a heated debate recently. The goal of this paper is to address this question at the normative level: what should the law be in this regard? It begins, in part II, by briefly discussing some preliminary issues about how to address the problem: does it make sense to retain the employee/independent contractor distinction at all? Is it justified to maintain an “all or nothing” dichotomy? Should we leave the determination of “who is an employee” to courts? And finally, how should we interpret the term “employee” that appears in legislation? As will become clear, my approach is purposive, and Part III outlines – based on my previous writings – what this means in the context of identifying an employment relationship that justifies the application of labour laws. I will briefly consider several goals of labour law, and suggest that the most useful level of abstraction for current purposes is to focus on the unique vulnerabilities of employment, which I identify as democratic deficits (subordination, broadly conceived) and dependency (economic as well as for social/psychological needs). Finally, part IV applies these general principles to the specific context of Uber drivers, concluding eventually that Uber drivers should be considered employees.
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