Uber works much like a taxi service, but the entire transaction is handled through the Uber application and is cashless: the fare is automatically charged to the credit card a passenger puts on file. The company boasts that the services allows one to track the location of a driver on a smartphone’s GPS, view fare estimates, and provide feedback about the driver and the rider.
Uber classifies drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. RSA 281-A:2 VI (b)(1) sets out a multi-part test to determine a number of criteria including how much control a business has over an individual worker to decide whether the worker is an independent contractor or employee.
Uber contends that the drivers are independent contractors, noting that the drivers provide their own vehicles and choose when they drive, where they drive, and who they pick up, maintaining that Uber is only an application providing a way to connect driver to rider. Opponents say that Uber drivers are employees because they are monitored on a real-time basis and can be terminated at the will of a local manager. Passions have run high across the country as local governments struggle with deciding if Uber drivers are employees or independent contractors. If courts determine that Uber drivers are, in fact, employees, Uber and the drivers would be subject to additional regulation and taxes; the drivers would also be entitled to additional protections including unemployment benefits, health insurance, and workers compensation benefits.
An example of this battle can be seen in California, where an Uber driver injured in an assault by a rider has filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court seeking payment of medical bills and indemnity benefits. The suit alleges that “Uber’s misclassification of drivers as independent contractors” gives it “an unfair advantage over competing transportation companies” and has “harmed Uber drivers, and violated state law.”
This conflict is not unique to California. Uber has already arrived in the Granite State, primarily in the cities of Manchester, Nashua, and Portsmouth. New Hampshire has seen the clash between Uber and traditional taxi services when the Manchester board of alderman recently voted to require that Uber drivers submit to a state background check in order to operate in the city. As of this writing, it does not appear that any Uber drivers have been injured while driving in New Hampshire, but it is only a matter of time before a driver is injured and tries to collect workers’ compensation benefits. The Uber service is expected to grow in the coming years and decisions from other jurisdictions may provide guidance as to whether New Hampshire should consider these drivers employees or independent contractors.