St. Thomas Law Review

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What drives a business? Most simply put, profit. But to what end? Employment classification has a significant impact on a business’s profit. The two most common worker classifications recognized globally are the independent contractor and the employee. This classification determines whether the individual receives access to pay, qualifies for benefits, and gains protection from discrimination. All these factors come at a cost to an employer and result in a cut in their overall profit. In the twentieth century, employment classification has been subject to heavy litigation in a particular field: the gig economy. The gig economy, which primarily grew in the twenty-first century, provides the ability for workers to have flexible and temporary jobs. For some, the flexibility is beneficial as it allows people to work whenever and wherever they please. However, others rely on their gig economy job to make a living, and this has led workers to demand employee rights. The leading player in the rideshare gig economy is Uber, and much litigation has centered around their employees demanding more workplace rights. Under the current system, to gain more rights, workers need to be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. Consequently, Uber drivers have sued seeking reclassification as employees rather than independent contractors. Several countries around the world have already addressed this issue. Countries such as France and the United Kingdom have chosen to classify Uber drivers as employees and workers, respectively—affording them employment benefits such as vacation days, paid time off, and health benefits— while Australia and the United States are still classifying Uber drivers as independent contractors.16 Court decisions from around the world regarding Uber serve as a precedent to litigation concerning other gig economy workers'’ rights. This Article will analyze the employment standards of four countries: France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia, and discuss each country’s judicial decisions regarding the treatment of Uber drivers as independent contractors, employees, or workers. The underlying goal of this inquiry is to assess whether human dignity is taken into account in legislative and judicial decision-making regarding worker classification since human dignity should be at the core of all work environments. Such a stance is of mutual benefit: if employers show their employees that they are valued, employees will return the gratification. Thus, for the reasons discussed below, all workers deserve to be treated according to decent standards of employment, which inter alia, would provide workers with employment benefits while retaining the employment status that encourages their flexibility.