Canadian Manufacturing

Supreme Court sides with Uber driver seeking better pay, benefits

The class-action suit is aimed at securing a minimum wage, vacation pay and other benefits for drivers

June 26, 2020  The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has cleared the way for Uber drivers to take the next step in their fight to be recognized as employees.

In a decision June 26, the high court upheld an Ontario Court of Appeal decision that opened the door to a class-action suit aimed at securing a minimum wage, vacation pay and other benefits for drivers.

The man behind the planned class action, David Heller, is an Ontario driver for UberEats, a service that delivers food from restaurants to customers at home.

He argues that Uber drivers are employees, which entitles them to protections under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act.

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Ontario’s highest court said a clause in Uber’s services agreement that requires all disputes to go through arbitration in the Netherlands amounted to illegally outsourcing an employment standard.

Heller earns about $400 to $600 a week before paying taxes and expenses, using his own vehicle and working 40 to 50 hours a week, amounting to revenue between $21,000 and $31,000 annually.

He says this works out to $10 to $12 an hour, while the minimum wage in Ontario is $14 an hour.

In its decision, the Supreme Court says the arbitration agreement is invalid, noting someone in Heller’s position could not be expected to appreciate the financial and legal implications of the arbitration clause.

“We agree with the Court of Appeal. This is an arbitration agreement that makes it impossible for one party to arbitrate,” said seven of the high court justices.

Another justice who sided with Heller went even further, saying the arbitration agreement with Uber effectively bars him from accessing a legally determined dispute resolution, imposing undue hardship on Heller and undermining the rule of law.