THE NEWS WRAP: California watchdog rules Uber drivers are employees

Broede Carmody /

The California Labor Commission has ruled that an Uber driver is an employee and not an independent contractor, according to The New York Times.


The decision has meant the fast-growing startup has to reimburse a Californian Uber driver more than $4000 in expenses and other costs for the eight-week period that she worked for the company.


Uber refers to its drivers as “partner drivers”, and claims they are independent contractors and therefore should pay their own expenses such as fuel.


The ruling could have far-reaching consequences not just for Uber but other startups in the so-called sharing economy.


Employment law specialist Warwick Ryan previously told StartupSmart that the laws governing contractor arrangements in Australia are “murky”, with recent Federal Court cases showing how contractors that use their own vehicles and choose when they wish to work can still be found to be employees.


“I think there is a little bit of a push-back from the Federal Court at the attempts of business to take a very expansive view of contractors as a resource,” he said.


“Just because you have a contract in place saying they are a contractor, not an employee … the courts will, in most cases, ignore that if the indicators are contrary. They will have little regard for it.”


Twitter buys artificial intelligence startup


Twitter has acquired a small artificial intelligence startup in a bid to absorb its technology and show users more relevant tweets.


Whetlab announced the news in a statement on its website, saying it will be shutting down its private beta in July.


“Over the past year, we have created a technology to make machine learning better and faster for companies, automatically,” the statement reads.


“Twitter is the platform for open communication on the internet and we believe that Whetlab’s technology can have a great impact by accelerating Twitter’s internal machine learning efforts.”


Microsoft announces major organisational shake-up


Some of Microsoft’s most senior executives are departing in a company-wide restructure, according to TechCrunch.


The company’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, said in a memo that the reshuffle was done in order to better align the company’s structure with its overall strategy.


“While we are distinctly aligning our engineering structure and core capabilities, our ambitions are interconnected,” she wrote.


“Success requires all of us – and particularly the Senior Leadership Team – to work across boundaries as one Microsoft and in harmony with our partners.”




The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 31.26 points, rising 0.17% to 17,935.74. The Aussie dollar is trading at around 77.47 US cents.


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Broede Carmody

Broede Carmody is a former senior reporter at SmartCompany. Previously, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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