Ride-hailing giant Uber has won a case filed by a French driver claiming he should be considered an employee, with judges saying the company is simply an intermediary — a ruling that clashes with a top EU court decision just weeks ago.
The decision by a Paris labour court, seen by AFP on Thursday, suggests that authorities and legal minds are divided over how to regulate companies and workers in the so-called "gig economy".
The driver in the French case, who stopped working for Uber in 2016 after providing some 4,000 trips in under two years, later sued to have his "commercial accord" reclassified as an employment contract.
He was seeking reimbursement for holidays and expenses as well as indemnities for "undeclared work" and contract termination.
But in its ruling dated January 29, the court said drivers were free to refuse a trip and not subject to any oversight by Uber in terms of time worked.
Uber offered "intermediation and not transportation services", which meant it was linked to drivers only via "commercial contracts" that could not be considered terms of employment.
In December, however, the European Court of Justice deemed the US group a transportation service, subject to the same regulations governing taxis and other ride providers.
In Britain, Uber is appealing against a labour court ruling that would give its drivers the right to paid holidays and the national minimum wage.
The lawyer for the French driver said he was likely to appeal, saying the judges had failed to appreciate "the entire system" that goes with being an Uber driver.
"To generate sufficient revenues and meet their expenses, given the rates that are imposed, a driver effectively has to be connected to the service quite often," the lawyer, Aurelie Arnaud, said.
Uber welcomed the decision, saying "tens of thousands of drivers in France use the Uber app because it lets them decide, in real time, if, when and where they want to drive."