The Uber Million Dollar Question: Are Uber Drivers Employees or Independent Contractors?

27 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2016 Last revised: 17 Sep 2017

See all articles by Christian Woo

Christian Woo


Richard A. Bales

Ohio Northern University - Pettit College of Law

Date Written: 2017


Over the past few years, Uber Technologies, Inc.’s Uber rideshare app has connected millions of its users to drivers “with the touch of a button,” providing them with a way of getting from point A to point B without many of the hassles associated with flagging down taxicabs. Through Uber has provided drivers an opportunity to set their own schedules and use their own vehicles, many drivers have sued Uber, claiming that they are entitled to earned wages, reimbursement expenses, and other legal protections because of their status as employees. Uber has fought back, arguing that its drivers are independent contractors and are thus not entitled to any of the benefits they allege belong to them. This article examines the question of whether Uber drivers should be classified as employees or independent contractors by examining Uber’s current business model under today’s legal tests for defining an employment relationship. Ultimately, this article will conclude that the tests do not provide a clear answer as to whether the drivers are employees or independent contractors, but also argues that the indeterminate results are not necessarily bad because they force individualized assessments of the employee/independent contractor determination. In closing, this article will recommend that each decision be made on a case-by-case basis, and that the tests be reconsidered in light of the sharing economy that exists today.

Suggested Citation

Woo, Christian and Bales, Richard A., The Uber Million Dollar Question: Are Uber Drivers Employees or Independent Contractors? (2017). 68 Mercer L. Rev. 461 (2017). Available at SSRN:

Christian Woo

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Richard A. Bales (Contact Author)

Ohio Northern University - Pettit College of Law ( email )

525 South Main Street
Ada, OH 45810
United States
419-772-2205 (Phone)


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