Could Brazil Follow The UK in Ruling Uber Drives Are Employees?

March 31, 2021

When the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers were entitled to benefits as “workers” – an intermediary classification in the UK between an independent contractor and an employee – it was natural to ask where the next domino could fall.  Brazil could be that place.     
 
Brazil’s labor and employment laws a very employee-friendly and impose significant responsibilities on employers.  However, like in just about every other jurisdiction, gig and platform workers – like Uber Drivers – are classified as independent contractors and thus are not entitled to the employee protection systems within Brazil.  
 
According to Brazilian law firm CGM Advogados, the most important element which determines if an individual is an employee is autonomy.  
 
Given the importance of autonomy, CGM details several conflicting regional Labor court rulings in Brazil which held Uber drivers were employees due to the lack of autonomy.  These elements include the ability of negative customer ratings to remove a driver, Uber’s providing of insurance, and penalties for drivers for declining rides.  
 
However, last year a Superior Labor Court ruling held they were not employees, pointing to the flexibility to choose the working hours, routine, location, and number of rides per day. 
 
CGM notes there is a need for legal certainty in the country given the court split.  Further, given the very employee friendly framework of its labor laws, it might not be surprising to see Brazilian courts make a ruling similar to the UK’s in the future.