How Tech Firms Like Uber Hide Behind the ‘Platform Defense’

How Tech Firms Like Uber Hide Behind the ‘Platform Defense’

Photograph: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images The state of California is set to pounce, so—big surprise!—Uber is playing Silicon Valley’s favorite get out of jail card: “the platform defense.” As in, “Judge, I couldn’t have committed the crime, I was a platform at the time.” In the process, however, Uber may have helped energize critics who insist that evasive big tech companies be held to account for their toxic negligence. Quick backstory: California’s legislature this week passed, and Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign, a landmark bill designed to protect (among others) Uber and Lyft drivers—workers who punch the clock every day for their employers but are nonetheless treated as independent contractors. You know, as if the drivers are just a bunch of free agents who pick up customers as part of passenger-moving business plan they drew up and have begun executing. The measure, called AB5, would instead require that a company treat its workers as employees if they exert control over how they perform their tasks or if their work is part of the company’s regular business. (And they certainly do.) The idea is to distinguish between workers who make the company tick and workers who are genuinely independent […]

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