Uber Drivers Are Freelancers, Not Employees, New York City Official Says

Th Uber Technologies Inc. car service application (app) is displayed for a photograph on an Apple Inc. iPhone in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014.

Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

New York considers drivers for ride-hailing car services such as Uber freelance workers rather than employees, according to the city’s chief taxi regulator, a policy that supports the company’s business model.

The view, expressed by Meera Joshi, chairwoman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, runs counter to a California Labor Commission ruling last month that ordered Uber to reimburse a driver for more than $4,000 in expenses incurred over eight weeks.

“We have wholeheartedly supported driver flexibility as independent contractors when we allow them, much to the consternation of the industry, to drive for several bases,” Joshi said in a Tuesday interview on Bloomberg Television.

Uber Technologies Inc., founded five years ago in San Francisco, has argued that drivers merely connect with passengers through mobile-device applications designed by the company, rather than working for it directly. The company has grown to serve 300 cities worldwide, stirring conflict with traditional taxi and car-for-hire businesses in California, New York and Paris. It has asserted its value at $50 billion.

New York allows drivers to be linked with several companies simultaneously “so a driver is not an Uber driver,” Joshi said. “That’s a flexibility the driver is entitled to. They don’t have the security of employment; they don’t have the security of guaranteed income.”

In the event a court ruled that such drivers are employees, “then our position would change,” Joshi said. “If the decision is they are employees and they are entitled to all those rights that employees are entitled to, we would definitely be vigilant in making sure they get those.”

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