Uber Driver Alleges Termination After Protest Appearance

On December 11, plaintiff Ahmed Youssef filed a complaint against defendant Uber Technologies, Inc. (Ahmed Youssef v. Uber Technologies, Inc. 1:19-cv-08106) for unlawful termination. The complaint was filed in the Illinois Northern District Court. Ahmed Youssef is represented by Cole Sadkin.

In 2018, Youssef entered an agreement with Uber to become an independent contractor as a driver for the ride-sharing giant. Youssef performed more than 8,000 passenger rides with Uber. He requested information from Uber on how to transition from Uber X to the more luxurious Uber Black service. To do so, he needed to apply and interview with Uber. He also purchased a Lincoln Navigator for $75,000. He was approved as an Uber Black driver. In 2018, as an Uber X driver, he earned about $75,000; it is estimated that he could have earned more than $125,000 as an Uber Black driver.

Youssef participated in a peaceful Uber protest in Chicago in October 2018. He was supporting other Uber drivers, as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot cast scrutiny on Uber’s classification of drivers as independent contractors and their pay relative to Uber’s large revenue. In December 2018, he was terminated from the Uber X platform and in April 2019 was terminated from Uber Black, both without notice or explanation; after which, Youssef requested information regarding the terminations. Uber responded that Youssef performed “irregular trips associated with fraudulent activities” in violation of Uber’s policies. Further, “Uber stated that Youssef committed improper usage of the Uber platforms by ‘using your rider and driver account at the same time, creating duplicate accounts, accepting trips without the intention of completing them, claiming false fees or charges, the installation, and use of software which has the intention or effect of manipulating the Driver App and trip details.’” Uber has not provided evidence of these claims.

Youssef has claimed that Uber has violated his First Amendment rights as a private citizen speaking in a public manner. He was participating in the peaceful protests in Chicago on his personal time and not on payable company time. He was photographed while participating in the protest; his photograph was published in a Chicago Tribune article. Youssef believes that he was terminated based on his participation in the peaceful protest. He also claimed that Uber has broken his employment agreement and that he is owed $200,000 in lost earnings and repayment.

The case before Judge Charles Norgle is the latest in a nationwide conversation about rideshare drivers’ relationships with their companies.  Recently, Uber and Lyft launched a campaign against AB 5, a California bill that limits the use of independent contractors.