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Has the arrival of Uber generated any employment law issues in Canada?

Jurisdiction: - Ontario
Sector: - Local Government

In two posts on June 17, 2015, I noted that the California Labor Commission had ruled that an Uber driver was an employee not a contractor, and thus entitled to be reimbursed for her driving related expenses.

I am not aware of any similar Uber "employee / contractor" cases in Canada. However, Uber's arrival in this country has sparked at least one employment law "debate" that played out in Toronto in April and May of this year.

On April 2, 2015, City of Toronto Councillor Jim Karygiannis (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt) announced that he intended to introduce a motion to remove the Uber app from City owned smartphones issued to employees.

This is the news release that he issued:

Karygiannis expects to introduce Council Motion to remove Uber application from City-owned smartphones

TORONTO - Jim Karygiannis, Councillor for Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt, expects to introduce a Motion at the May City Council Meeting, with respect to removing the Uber application from City-owned smartphone devices.

"The Motion is simple, it will serve to protect our employees from physical harm and protect the taxpayers from financial harm." said Mr. Karygiannis. "I am concerned that employees, who use Uber while on the job and are injured in an accident, will hold the City of Toronto taxpayers liable because they are on company time, using company smartphones and are on City business when they are injured."

The removal of the Uber application could apply to approximately 12,000 smartphones issued by the City to its employees.

"As we have learned, UberX drivers do not carry commercial vehicle insurance. If a City employee is injured, taxpayers will pay.  We cannot let this happen. Passing the Motion is the responsible thing for Council to do." Mr. Karygiannis stated.

Councillor Karygiannis's Motion was introduced at a Council meeting in late May 2015. The Motion read as follows:

Limiting the Liability of Employee use of Uber - by Councillor Jim Karygiannis, seconded by Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker
Councillor Jim Karygiannis, seconded by Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, recommends that:
Recommendations
1. City Council direct the City Manager to commence the process of removing the smart phone application Uber from all of the approximately 12,000 smartphone devices issued by the City to its employees.
2. City Council direct that the preferred cellphone vendor of record and any alternate vendors of record be requested to remove or block the application in an automated manner.
3. City Council request agencies and corporations to consider adopting the same measures.
Summary
In light of Toronto Police Operation: Snowball, City Council direct the City Manager to give consideration to the best way to communicate with all employees the risks associated with using unlicensed and uninsured bandit taxi services during working hours, and further that the City Manager communicate to the Toronto Police Service that the City of Toronto does not object to enforcement of any parts of the Highway Traffic Act or the Compulsory Insurance Act against any person or company operating within its borders
The City of Toronto should always take steps to protect our employees from physical harm and protect the taxpayers from financial harm. City employees with work-issued smartphones may be using Uber to go to City meetings.
If those employees are physically harmed in an accident, those employees will hold the City of Toronto taxpayers liable because they were on work time when they were injured.
As we have come to learn, UberX drivers don't have commercial insurance. If they did, once charged by police they would simply have to show their insurance slip to the courts and charges would be dropped. If employees get hurt, taxpayers will pay. We can't let that happen. Secondly, it was reported in the news that the City had instructed the Toronto Police to hold off on enforcing the Highway Traffic Act and the Compulsory Insurance Act. If this is true, Council should send a clear message that it wants provincial laws enforced in our City to protect our residents.
We wouldn't want our own families riding in an unlicensed and uninsured taxi and we certainly don't want our employees doing that either.
This Motion is the responsible thing for Council to do.

According to a story that ran in the May 26, 2015 edition of the Toronto Sun, Mayor John Tory and the rest of the executive committee voted to defer the Motion indefinately. The story quoted Mayor Tory as saying that the motion "was a solution in search of a problem" and that, "There are, out of 12,000 city-issued phones, 24 that have Uber on them." A city spokesman told the newspaper that in fact 19 city mobile devices have the Uber app and that 10 belong to councillors or their staff and nine to city staff.

Photo Credit: Automobile Italia