This is a really interesting question. The brighter lines that we were able to draw in the 20th Century look a lot less bright as technology changes the way we interact commercially. Also, for as much criticism as the at-will doctrine has taken in the business ethics literature, it would be interesting if the application of that doctrine turned out to be the key to striking what would be, in the eyes of many, a blow in favor of more robust worker rights. >>>
The legal problem for Uber and Lyft is that, by these standards, their drivers seem to fall squarely in the middle. Their hours are flexible—but only to a point. Uber, for example, has threatened to suspend the accounts of drivers who accept less than 90 percent of rides. The same is true of drivers’ control over their work. Uber and Lyft might not make drivers wear uniforms, but the companies do instruct them on other points—how to interact with passengers, what kind of music to play during rides—and threaten to deactivate drivers who don’t meet standards.
This last point—the ability to “terminate” drivers who don’t comply with expectations—is perhaps the most compelling argument that Uber and Lyft drivers ought to be considered employees and not contractors. Both judges note that California’s highest court has previously described an employer’s “right to discharge at will, without cause” as “strong evidence in support of an employment relationship.”
What do you think?