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Court Finds Grubhub Driver Was Independent Contractor

(February 9, 2018) A Grubhub driver was an independent contractor and not an employee of the online food ordering and delivery service because the company lacks control over the driver’s work.

The California district court noted it is an “all-or-nothing proposition” whether a person is an employee or an independent contractor. “With the advent of the gig economy, and the creation of  a low wage workforce performing low skill but highly flexible episodic jobs, the legislature may want to address this stark dichotomy. In the meantime, the Court must answer the question one way or the other.”

The driver signed a contract specifically stating that the driver is in the “independent business of providing delivery services.” The opinion notes that the driver could pick the time he worked, decline to make deliveries, and subcontract the deliveries. The contract also had an arbitration clause, but the driver opted out of that provision.

The court said the driver’s “gaming of the Grubhub driver app further illustrates how little control Grubhub had over the details of Mr. Lawson’s work. For weeks, if not months, Mr. Lawson was able to perform little to no deliveries and yet get compensated as if he had been available for entire blocks—and sometimes even past his scheduled blocks—because Grubhub was not supervising his performance. Mr. Lawson’s dishonesty eventually led to Grubhub’s termination of his Agreement for cause, but this does not mean that Grubhub had the right to control the details of his work.”

Despite finding the driver not credible, the court applied the factors to determine if he could be an employee, including whether driving was a distinct occupation, whether there was any control or supervision of the driver, the skill required, who provided the tools or equipment, the length of time the services are provided, the method of payment, and whether the services were part of Grubhub’s regular business. After applying the factors, the court found during the time the driver “performed delivery services for Grubhub he was an independent contractor.”

Lawson v. Grubhub, Inc., Northern Dist. Calif. No. 15-cv-5128, filed February 8, 2018