SAO PAULO, May 23 (Reuters) - A Brazil appeals court on Tuesday ruled that a driver working for Uber via its ride-hailing app is not an employee of the San Francisco-based company and therefore not entitled to workers’ benefits, overturning an earlier lower court decision.
The ruling adds to the global debate over labor rights for drivers on the popular platform and could establish a precedent for various similar cases in Latin America’s largest economy.
A press representative for the labor court in the state of Minas Gerais confirmed that judges had overruled a January decision that granted a driver access to employee benefits, but declined to provide further details.
The official ruling is due to be published on Thursday.
According to Uber lawyers who were present at the hearing, the judges cited drivers’ ability to log off at will, offer their accounts to other drivers and split fares as evidence that they should be considered partners of the company and not employees.
The driver may still appeal to Brazil’s top labor court.
The ruling is the first by a higher court over the thorny debate circling the ride-hailing firm, which is facing the threat of higher costs due to similar cases in the United States, Britain, Switzerland and Europe.
A Sao Paulo judge had also ruled on April 14 that an Uber driver should be treated as an employee of the firm.
The lower house of Brazil’s Congress has also threatened Uber’s business model with a bill requiring it and other ride-hailing apps to register with city authorities as conventional taxi services. President Michel Temer has pledged to veto parts of the legislation if it passes the Senate. (Reporting by Bruno Federowski, editing by Daniel Flynn, G Crosse)