US ride-hailing startup Uber has won a major employment case in France. The French tribunal court has ruled the company is not an employer.

The case was centred around an Uber driver, Florian Menard. Menard argued he was not self-employed and his service contract with the US tech company should be reclassified as an employment contract. This is similar to previous employment cases fought in countries such as the UK.

However, in this instance, the labour tribunal ruled in favour of Uber. It said the app was “in the business of intermediation and not that of a transport service.” This means that Uber is not an employer.

Menard has one month to appeal the ruling.

What was said:

According to the Financial Times, the tribunal said:

“The tribunal holds that the parties are bound by no employment contract and that this is in fact a commercial contract concluded between Mr Menard and Uber.”

Why it matters:

This is a different ruling to how the UK courts approached it. Last year, the London Employment Tribunal ruled that Uber was acting unlawfully by not providing drivers with basic workers’ rights. This includes holiday pay, guaranteed minimum wage, and entitlement to breaks.

In November, a UK judge Jennifer Eady upheld the decision, enforcing it into UK law.

Yet, all is not set in stone. Uber could appeal the appeal decision, which could see the case end up in the UK’s Supreme Court. The French tribunal ruling could have an impact on a later UK-based decision.

In addition, this is all taking place against the backdrop of the European Court of Justice’s recent decision. In December, the ECJ ruled that Uber is officially a transport company, not a digital service.

The ECJ ruling means that it believes Uber is not an intermediation service, the opposite of the French tribunal ruling. It demonstrates how complicated employment issues are in the gig economy.

Background:

This is not the first time Uber has been in court in France over its practices. In May 2016, the company faced legal challenges from France’s social security agency, the CNAM. The CNAM argued that Uber had avoided paying millions in employee-related charges because their drivers were not registered as employees.

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However, this related to the UberPop service, which allowed non-professional drivers to offer rides on the app. This was later banned after major protests.

This also took down another taxi startup, named Heetch. It relaunched in April 2017 as taxi platform with professional drivers and is now the second-most downloaded taxi app in France, after Uber.