Brazil's STJ decision benefits Uber in the country

Uber drivers may not be considered employees of the ride hailing firm in Brazil

Uber driver with a smartphone
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  • The Superior Court of Justice in Brazil settles claim by Uber driver in Minas Gerais, ruling that drivers are not employees of the ride hailing firm;
  • Ruling may affect similar claims in lower courts that may no longer be considered as labor rights cases, but rather as cases of civil law.

Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice (STJ) has ruled that an Uber driver from Minas Gerais, who had initially filed the complaint, is not an employee of the ride hailing firm, setting a precedent that will likely affect similar cases at lower courts in the country.

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“App drivers don’t have a hierarchic relationship with Uber because their services are provided casually, without pre-established working hours or fixed salary, and therefore the characteristics of labor tie among parts don’t exist,” stated the ruling of 10 justices at STJ.

Brazil is currently Uber’s second largest market, after the US. More than 600,000 Uber drivers operate in Brazil–São Paulo is the city with the highest volume of trips using Uber in the world, ahead of New York and Mexico City.

The court’s ruling plays into a global debate taking place in other courts around the world, such as California and the United Kingdom. In the former, the courts placed legal hurdles for Uber to argue that drivers are self-employed, while in the latter British courts established that drivers are employees of the ride hailing company.

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Another important element of the ruling by the STJ is that civil courts should settle disputes between Uber and drivers offering their services through the app. Until now, these disputes were evaluated in labor courts in Brazil, yet the ruling by the STJ dissociates the supposed labor relations between drivers and Uber in Brazil. In other words, the prior legal ambivalence that existed in regards to Uber drivers is now cleared in the ruling, which suggests that drivers are not to be considered employees with labor rights connected to the ride hailing company.

In a statement to LABS, lawyer Marco Aurélio Guimarães explained that “the decision reached by the STJ is not binding and only has effects on the specific case.” In his opinion, the ruling is mistaken, for “the jurisdiction for analysis of the demand corresponds to Labor Law, even if the object of the action is not the claim of workers wages in a strict sense.”

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