In a landmark ruling Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in San Francisco concluded that a gig-economy driver does not qualify for the protection of employees under California law.
The decision is the first of its kind, setting a standard for arguments regarding “gig-economy” workers.
The gig-economy has gotten much press as of late. With a number of businesses like Grubhub and Uber working off the model of pairing customers with products and services through apps, many workers have found a new form of income allowing high flexibility in exchange for low skill, low wage, episodic jobs.
However, the case against GrubHub, brought on by Raef Lawson, claimed the company violated California labor laws by not reimbursing his expenses, paying him less than minimum wage and failing to pay overtime. His argument was based on the idea that Grubhub exerts a certain level of control over. The company expects drivers to be available to accept assignments during shifts they sign up for and to remain in designated geographical areas.
Lawson worked as a food-delivery driver with the company for less than six months while pursuing a career as an actor and writer.
At a hearing in October, Judge Corley expressed concern that Lawson’s resume filed with the lawsuit may have tainted the trial because the actor lied about completing a three-year program. The specifics of the program weren’t provided. However, Corley said Lawson was “dishonest” and that the resume “is really problematic to me.”
Charlotte Garden, an associate law professor at Seattle University, said to Bloomberg that Corley’s decision is a “doubly big” win for GrubHub since California’s relatively high standard for establishing workers as independent contractors will mean similar arguments in other states will most likely side with this ruling.