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9 March 2020

France: Uber drivers are employees, says the French Court of Cassation

Cour de cassation

On 4 March 2020, the French Court of Cassation ruled in favour of reclassifying the contractual relationship between Uber and one of its drivers. This is the second court ruling in France in favour of platform workers, coming in the wake of the one concerning Take Eat Easy, a former food delivery company.

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The dispute was all about the ambiguous employment status of platform workers. Although deemed to be self-employed, platform workers are often subject to the same relationship of subordination as that binding any employee to his/her employer. In the case at hand, the Court of Cassation ruled that the platform had the power to organise a driver's work, to control its execution and to punish drivers for not complying with its rules. On the basis of the case law established in the “Société Générale” ruling of 13 November 1996, these three criteria constitute proof of legal subordination under French law. For its part, Uber put forward arguments upholding drivers’ flexibility and their freedom to work when they want - two notions not taken into account when defining subordination. Ruling that the driver's status as a self-employed worker was fictitious, the Court forced the company to reclassify the relationship as an employment contract.

This reclassification can be expected to benefit all Uber drivers, giving them access to better social security coverage. Moreover, anyone so wishing can claim compensation, wages and interest in the case of non-observance of maximum working hours, concealed work or dismissal without due cause. According to Uber, 150 French drivers have applied or intend to apply for reclassification, i.e. just 0.2% of the platform's current and past workforce.

This French ruling can be seen as part of a wider move contesting the status of platform workers in many EU Member States. Countries such as Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK have seen several court rulings handed down, whether in favour of reclassification or in favour of upholding or even reverting to a self-employed status. According to ETUI senior researcher Christophe Degryse, “the increase in court cases in different Member States reflects the difficulty of interpreting existing social law in the face of new business models based on new technologies with their great potential to deregulate the labour market. A coordinated approach taking account of the many different forms of the platform economy would be a lot more appropriate and effective”.

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Photo Credit: Patrick Janicek

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