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Courtesy of GrubHub

Is a gig economy driver an employee or a contractor? That's the question at the center of a bench trial (meaning, without jury) that kicked off on Tuesday in San Francisco federal court as a former driver for GrubHub faces off against the meal ordering company. At the first hearing, both sides mainly spent their time outlining their arguments.

Why it matters: This question has yet to be answered despite several high-profile lawsuits against gig economy companies, including Uber and Lyft. And because this one focuses on the plaintiff's experience as a driver for GrubHub, it may not settle the question either beyond just his own situation.

The Borello test: In California, the Borello test (derived from a 1989 case) looks at whether a worker meets certain conditions that would make him employee. The biggest one in question here will be the level of control GrubHub exerted over drivers like Raef Lawson, the plaintiff. While his attorney says it was very rigid work and he had to sign up for shifts, which were difficult to reschedule or cancel, GrubHub's attorneys say otherwise. Lawson, argues the company, had full freedom to pick his shifts and which part of town he wanted to work in, and didn't have any requirements other than to get the food orders to the customers.

  • GrubHub's shifts, which are a contentious topic in the case, are particularly notable because of the company's approach to delivery. Unlike competitors like Postmates, which strives to provide delivery for a wide variety of products from food to Apple Store orders, GrubHub focuses on having drivers available mostly during meal times, as CEO Matt told me last year.

Déjà vu: Shannon Liss-Riordan, the driver's lawyer, and Theodore Boutrous, Jr., GrubHub's lawyer, faced off last year in a high-profile similar lawsuit filed against Uber. The former is also known for having filed lawsuits on behalf of drivers and workers for other gig economy services including Lyft.

Go deeper

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.