Embattled taxi hailing app Uber argued in court this week that the 160,000 drivers who offer people rides for money via the company's app are not actually its employees.
Uber, which claims to only provide the software to connect riders and taxis, told the California Northern District Court that its popular app was only a "lead generation" tool, and that drivers are independent contractors and not hired employees.
Uber's central claim seems to be that drivers are a "diverse group" who use the service in different ways.
"Drivers also vary widely regarding whether they work for a transportation company; operate their own transportation companies; hire subcontractors; use competitors’ apps; use the Uber App consistently or sporadically; and use entrepreneurial profit maximization techniques, such as targeting busy areas of town or driving during periods of surge pricing," Uber said to the court.
The stakes are high for the company as the outcome of the court case could help fend off a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of drivers who argue that Uber doesn't give them a fair cut of the profits and encourages riders not to tip.
Uber's argument about drivers being "unique" in how they use the service if different ways is an attempt to show that the class-action plaintiffs don't accurately represent all of the company's drivers.
"Relying on outdated law and scant evidence, plaintiffs seek to certify a statewide class of over 160,000 individuals with widely varying personal interests and circumstances who have used the Uber lead generation application to connect with millions of passengers over the past six years," Uber wrote to the court.
"They base their motion on a facially implausible theory that each and every one of these individuals had an identical relationship with Uber and has been misclassified as an independent contractor."
The case, which could radically alter how the company does business, is just one of many lawsuits Uber continues to face over the legality of its business practices. Uber operates a fleet of private cars and also offers controversial ride-sharing services where both taxis and personal vehicles owners can share rides.
Cities around the world, most recently Paris and Sydney, have banned the ride-sharing service, known as "UberPop" or "UberX", for being an unlicensed taxi provider.