Top Brazil Court Rules Uber Drivers Not Employees

A Brazilian high court has ruled that Uber drivers are not employees of the mobile ride-hailing company, a decision that bolsters its business model in its second-largest market.

The ruling by Superior Court of Justice, Brazil’s second-highest court. It was the first time a Brazilian superior court has ruled on the issue, setting an interpretation likely to influence future court decisions related to similar apps.

According to the unanimous ruling, “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.”

After the United States, Brazil is Uber’s 2nd biggest market in the number of trips by drivers for Uber Technologies Inc, and Sao Paulo is the biggest city, ahead of New York and Mexico City.

In the past Similar debates have raged in other Uber markets, such as Britain, where courts have found that drivers are employees, and the United States, where a California court made it harder for Uber and other technology platforms to argue their drivers are independent contractors.

The court in its ruling added that technological tools now available allow for new forms of economic interaction in which the drivers act as individual business people not employed by the owner of the platform.

The case was taken to court after a driver sued Uber seeking damages for lost income after the ride hailing company closed his account with it.

One local court said the case was a labour relations issue, indicating that he was an Uber employee, but a second court tasked specifically with handling labour cases took the opposite point of view, a decision now upheld by the superior court.

As expected, Uber welcomed the decisions and said in a statement that it upheld labour court rulings in more that 250 cases that there is no labour relation between its “partner drivers” and the company.

An Uber spokesperson said that “The decision reaffirms that they are individual micro-entrepreneurs who use the platforms to carry out their economic activity.”