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Uber wants drivers to sign new lawsuit pledge

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Core Tip:The new agreement replaces an earlier agreement that contained similar restrictions. But its timing — just two days after a federal judge's ruling vastly expanded the class of California drivers eligible to be part of a class action lawsuit agai

The new agreement replaces an earlier agreement that contained similar restrictions. But its timing — just two days after a federal judge's ruling vastly expanded the class of California drivers eligible to be part of a class action lawsuit against Uber — raised concerns the ride-hailing company was trying to limit drivers from participating in the suit. The class now includes most of the state's estimated 160,000 Uber drivers.

"By distributing these revised agreements this morning, two days after the court’s ruling, Uber was obviously trying to undercut the court’s decision on Wednesday that its arbitration agreement was illegal and unenforceable," said Shannon Liss-Riordan, the lawyer with Lichten & Liss-Riordan in Boston who filed the original lawsuit.

That lawsuit seeks to get drivers for the ride-hailing app defined as company employees. They would then be eligible for reimbursement of expenditures, such as cell-phone charges, made when they were working for Uber.The new agreement replaces an earlier agreement that contained similar restrictions. But its timing — just two days after a federal judge's ruling vastly expanded the class of California drivers eligible to be part of a class action lawsuit against Uber — raised concerns the ride-hailing company was trying to limit drivers from participating in the suit. The class now includes most of the state's estimated 160,000 Uber drivers.

"By distributing these revised agreements this morning, two days after the court’s ruling, Uber was obviously trying to undercut the court’s decision on Wednesday that its arbitration agreement was illegal and unenforceable," said Shannon Liss-Riordan, the lawyer with Lichten & Liss-Riordan in Boston who filed the original lawsuit.

That lawsuit seeks to get drivers for the ride-hailing app defined as company employees. They would then be eligible for reimbursement of expenditures, such as cell-phone charges, made when they were working for Uber.

Uber says the new driver agreement was necessary because on Wednesday U.S. District Judge Edward Chen ruled that part of the agreement Uber drivers had been signing was not enforceable, rendering the entire agreement unenforceable.

In order to correct that, Uber rewrote the agreement and removed a requirement that arbitration be confidential. The company informed Chen of the new agreement on Thursday and pushed it out to drivers Friday, the San Francisco-based company said.

All Uber drivers were emailed a copy of the new agreement. It will also come up on their Uber app the next time they log in to drive an Uber passenger, the San Francisco-based company said.

Late on Friday, Liss-Riordan filed an emergency motion asking the court to block enforcement of the new arbitration agreement that Uber distributed to its drivers.

"Unfortunately, in recent years, courts have been allowing companies to use arbitration agreements to shield themselves from any serious responsibility for their widespread legal violations," she said.

Uber's case is unusual in that the company wasn't allowed to use arbitration to block people from taking part in the case specifically because its agreement with them wasn't appropriately implemented.

"It is entirely improper for Uber to attempt now to circumvent the court’s ruling by distributing a new arbitration agreement," said Liss-Riordan.

Uber says it's not doing that. On Friday afternoon, the company said the new agreement is not meant to keep current California drivers from joining the lawsuit.

However, it will bar anyone in the state who began driving for the company after Friday and who did not choose to opt out of the arbitration clause from doing so, the company said.

Even under the new agreement, “it would be illegal for Uber to retaliate against any driver that opted out of arbitration, and Uber has assured drivers it will not,” Liss-Riordan said.









 

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