Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice, the nation’s second-highest court, ruled Wednesday that Uber drivers are independent contractors and not employees of Uber.
The case originated after a driver sued Uber in Minas Gerais, Brazil, seeking relief for lost income after Uber deactivated his driver account. Lower courts in Brazil have been wrestling with the issue of whether Uber drivers are contractors or employees for a few months. One court found the case was a labor relations issue and the complainant was an Uber employee, while another Brazilian trial court tasked with handling labor cases took the opposite view. The Superior Court of Justice affirmed Wednesday that Uber drivers are independent contractors.
The decision was the first time a Brazilian superior court has weighed in on the Uber issue. The unanimous panel of judges stated: “The app’s drivers have no hierarchical relation with the Uber company because their services are provided now and then, with no pre-established timetable and they do not have a fixed salary.” The court felt that due to technological tools of the modern age, companies can now provide new forms of income and provide people ways to earn money as individuals who do not have to necessarily answer to an employer.
Uber said in a statement that this decision affirms labor court rulings in more that 250 cases that there is still no labor relation between its “partner drivers” and the company. Uber specifically said, “The decision reaffirms that they are individual micro-entrepreneurs who use the platforms to carry out their economic activity.”
This issue is by no means unique to Brazil, as many nations have seen cases of this nature in their courts. Uber recently lost the case in Britain, where courts have found that the drivers are in fact employees of Uber. California recently approved AB5, which will make it more difficult for companies like Uber to claim drivers as independent contractors.