The California Labor Commission handed down a ruling to taxi-booking service Uber in early June, deeming that a former driver was actually an employee of the company, rather than simply a contractor as Uber had argued, The New York Times has reported.
In finalising a claim made by Barbara Berwick in September last year, the court considered her employment to span the entire duration of her stint with the company, from July 25 to September 15, 2015.
As a result of this ruling, Berwick was awarded $4,152.20 -- receiving $3,622.08 for driving 6,468 miles; $256 for toll charges; and $274.12 in interest accrued on "an unpaid balance of expenses".
Shortly after news of the ruling broke, Uber issued a statement via its blog saying that the decision made by the commission is non-binding and applies only to a single driver.
Uber has filed an appeal of the commission's decision to the Superior Court of California.
"It's important to remember that the number one reason drivers choose to use Uber is because they have complete flexibility and control," a spokeswoman said.
The driving app has previously run into troubles with regulatory authorities in Australia, with the company facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, cease-and-desist notices, and threats of litigation since launching in Australia. Last month, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) classified the service as taxi travel, and has mandated that all drivers are to file for an Australian Business Number and register for GST by August 1. Uber said it is considering legal action in order to appeal the decision.
Uber's legal issues extend worldwide: Private cars were banned in mid January from all ride-hailing taxi apps in China; tens of thousands of dollars in penalties were issued throughout Taiwan as of December; and the São Paulo Mayor's office in Brazil fined several drivers $900 on average for operating taxi services without legal authorisation in August last year.
In India, Uber was threatened with shutdown in October if it did not alter its business model to offer a two-step authentication process for its payment service, and consequently introduced a mobile wallet link-up with Paytm in November. However, a month later, the government banned Uber from operating in New Delhi when 32-year-old driver Shiv Kumar Yadav was charged with allegedly raping a 26-year-old female passenger.
Despite this, Uber relaunched in India within six weeks, resuming operations under a radio taxi licence, emphasising its enhanced security and stating that it would be implementing an in-app SOS panic button. It also began sharing all driver and vehicle data with the Transportation Department and traffic police.
Similarly, in December last year, an Uber driver in Boston was charged with the alleged sexual assault of a passenger. Uber's head of global safety Phillip Gardenas responded by saying that the company would work on developing biometric and voice-verification systems and polygraph tests for its global screening processes.
Uber was also forced to suspend operations in Portland, Oregon, for three months from late December while the city works on establishing regulatory guidelines for taxi apps.
Despite these universal legal challenges, Uber saw the value of its Series E round of venture funding rise by $1 billion to $2.2 billion in February, with the round's total capacity reportedly reaching $2.8 billion.