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Legal Report: Rideshare Companies Fined in U.S. and Australia

Judicial Decisions

Firearms. The U.S. Supreme Court decided that a New York law that required a license to carry concealed weapons in public places was unconstitutional.

The state law mandated that applicants for concealed carry licenses prove “a special need for self-defense” to receive a license, according to court documents. New York insisted that carrying a weapon for self-defense beyond the confines of one’s home was not an absolute right.

In the six to three opinion published on 23 June, however, the Court agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that the law was unconstitutional because it conflicted with the Second and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

“The exercise of other constitutional rights does not require individuals to demonstrate to government officers some special need,” the ruling said. The majority opinion instead noted that New York’s requirement specifically contradicted the Fourteenth Amendment by blocking “law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising” their Second Amendment rights.

The Court reversed and remanded the case to the Second Circuit court, which had initially upheld dismissing the case in support of the state’s law.

The Court’s ruling acknowledged that a handful of public places could be considered “sensitive,” such as government buildings and schools. For such sites, states can ban citizens from carrying weapons.

New York’s “may-issue” firearm licensing law is similar to laws in five other U.S. states. All six states can continue requiring people to apply for licenses to carry firearms for self-defense, but license requirements must be objective like in “shall-issue” states—which do not require applicants to demonstrate they face a particular threat before being issued a concealed carry permit. (New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, U.S. Supreme Court, 2022, No. 20-843)

COVID-19. A U.S. federal appeals court determined that employers cannot claim the COVID-19 pandemic as a natural disaster to excuse themselves from obligations under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act—which requires employers to provide 60 days’ notice for mass layoffs or facility closures.

In 2020, hydraulic fracturing services provider U.S. Well Services saw a significant decrease in customer demand in Texas. As a result, it initiated a mass layoff but failed to give employees the WARN-required advanced notice of the decision. The 60-day warning is meant to provide employees with enough time to prepare or adjust to possibly losing their jobs. Three former employees sued the company, claiming it violated the WARN Act.

The court ruled that natural disasters only include geological, hydrological, and meteorological events—such as an earthquake or a flood. Although the pandemic was triggered by a virus, it does not qualify as a natural disaster, according to the ruling.

The decision reversed and remanded the case back to a lower court. (Easom et al v. U.S. Well Services, Inc., U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2022, No. 21-20202)

Retaliation. Google settled with six engineers who claimed the company smothered staff’s attempts to organize. The details of the settlement remain unknown due to a non-disclosure agreement.

Four of the former employees also said that their activist stance—protesting a deal with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol—triggered their retaliatory dismissal from Google. While those four engineers will not be re-hired by the company, one of the six plaintiffs was still employed there. (Rivers et al v. Google, Inc., Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Santa Clara, 2022, No. S158965)

Safety. Lyft agreed to a $25 million settlement in response to class action claims that the rideshare company hid information from its shareholders about the risk Lyft faced from reports of riders being sexually assaulted or harmed.

The lawsuit accused the company of failing to disclose a “pervasive” problem of sexual assault by drivers and brake issues affecting its bike share service before its initial public offering in 2019.

The money from the settlement will be paid out to shareholders since the suit concerned the impact on Lyft’s investors. (In re Lyft, Inc. Securities Litigation, U.S. District Court Northern District of California, 2022, No. 19-cv-02690-HSG)

Negligence. A convenience store owner and its insurance company will pay $1 million to settle a wrongful death negligent security lawsuit brought by the estate of a murdered teenager.

The family of Rodney Hinds, Jr., filed the suit against Tahir Enterprise, Inc., after 17-year-old Hinds was shot and killed in a vehicle in the parking lot of the convenience store the company owned.

Hinds’ family alleged that the store management was “negligent” and provided the shooter with an opportunity to commit a crime because it was difficult for the onsite clerk to monitor activity at the convenience store, according to the suit. The family also claimed that the exterior of the convenience store was poorly lit, which could allow people to hide or prey on unsuspecting customers.

Tahir and its insurance provider, AmGUARD Insurance Company, agreed to pay their policy limit of $1 million to settle the case. (David v. Tahir Enterprise, Inc., Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit for Miami Dade County Florida, 2022, No. 2021-019952-CA-01)


European Union

Data. The European Parliament adopted the Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA), which limit how much power digital platforms in Europe have.

The DMA now regulates large online platforms, such as Apple or Google, regardless of where they are headquartered. The law is meant to create a more even digital marketplace and fair competition by applying strict requirements on “gatekeeper” companies—organizations that have either an income of €7.5 billion in the EU ($7.52 billion) or a market capitalization of €75 billion ($75.2 billion) or more, plus 45 million active end users per month.

The DMA goes into effect in October and becomes applicable April 2023. Gatekeepers will have until February 2024 to comply with the law.

The DSA updates the rules used to govern digital services—including basic websites, Internet services, and online platforms—in EU territories. It will require services to counter illegal online content, create new rules to trace sellers on online marketplaces to more easily identify scammers, and create new safeguards for users, including the ability to challenge platforms’ content moderation decisions.


United States/Mali

Child slavery. A U.S. federal judge dismissed a lawsuit alleging that seven food corporations were responsible for instances of child slavery on cocoa farms in Mali.

Eight plaintiffs from Mali alleged that the companies—which included Cargill Inc, Hershey Co, and Nestle SA—were responsible for human trafficking of children who were forced into employment on cocoa plantations in Côte d’Ivoire. Now adults, all the plaintiffs were children who were trafficked and forced to work on various plantations in the country.

The companies allegedly had varying degrees of awareness of the plantations’ employment practices, according to court documents. Six of the companies—Barry Callebaut, Cargill, Mondelez International, Nestle, and Olam International Americas—allegedly do not maintain effective systems for monitoring the use of child slaves. Another company, Mars, has a program to end the use of child slavery in its supply chain, but the company says it still sources cocoa from farms with child slaves. And while Hershey’s code of conduct prohibits the practice, it “continues to profit from child slavery through its purchases of Ivorian cocoa,” the lawsuit alleged.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich dismissed the proposed class action lawsuit because the plaintiffs were unable to demonstrate a clear connection between the companies and the plantations that used the slave labor. (Coubaly v. Cargill Inc, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, No. 21-00386)


Fraud. Uber B.V. agreed to pay $26 million in penalties to close an investigation into misleading statements made to Australian app users.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigated claims that between roughly December 2017 and September 2021, the rideshare app issued users a warning that they might be charged a fee when trying to cancel a ride request—even when the cancellation occurred during the app’s grace period when users can cancel a ride without incurring a fee.

In the course of the investigation, Uber also admitted to falsely representing the estimated fare for its TAXI ride option.

The settlement is pending approval from the Federal Court of Australia.


Censorship. Russia’s Internet censor, Roskomnadzor, banned Google News throughout the country. Roskomnadzor claimed that the news service spread false information about the war in Ukraine.

Google said in a statement that it will continue to refuse to sell ads on its apps, websites, and YouTube channels that disregard or support the war.