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Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Uber is confident that a California bill codifying stricter requirements for classifying workers as independent contractors, which is on its way to become law, won't force the firm to reclassify its drivers in the state.

What they're saying: One part of California's new legal test defining contract employment looks at whether a worker's work is "outside the company's usual course of business." Uber general counsel Tony West told reporters Wednesday that Uber believes its main business is building a technology marketplace, not transporting passengers, a familiar refrain from ride-hailing companies over the years.

Why it matters: That means Uber will stay put unless and until it loses a challenge in court and is forced to reclassify drivers. Uber believes it would pass the legal test, which is similar to ones already in place in three other states where Uber operates, West said.

Yes, but: Uber, along with rival Lyft and food delivery company DoorDash, is planning to fight the bill with a state ballot measure that would effectively create a separate employment category.

  • It's doing so to preempt the lawsuits over its classification of drivers as contractors that will inevitably be filed. Uber has already faced a number of those across the U.S. and in California.
  • Recent amendments to the bill also give certain city attorneys the ability to file injunctions against employers to enforce the new law.
  • The companies also worked to turn their drivers and customers into advocates against the bill as it made its way through the state Senate.

Similarly to Lyft, Uber warns that should it "fail the test" via a legal challenge and be forced to reclassify its drivers, the circumstances of their work would change.

  • "Certainly the flexibility of drivers would be limited, shifts would be a feature of what it means to interact with the platform... they would not be able to be dual-app" (work for both Uber and Lyft), said West during a call with reporters.
  • While nothing in the law dictates that Uber and Lyft would have to mandate those changes, it wouldn't be surprising to see the companies seek to impose stricter work requirements to offset the additional costs and potential smaller corps of drivers.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: Authorities in North Carolina confirmed that two people died in a car crash and that they responded 600 vehicle accidents during the storm on Sunday, per the Washington Post.

Texas abortion law remains in effect after appeals court ruling

Pro- and anti-abortion protesters outside the Supreme Court as arguments begin about the Texas abortion law on Capitol Hill in November. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A U.S. appeals court transferred a challenge to Texas' law banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy to the state supreme court in a 2-1 vote on Monday evening.

Why it matters: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision means the country's most restrictive abortion law can remain in place for the time being.

4 hours ago - World

At least 2 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least two people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Monday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Axios over the phone that two people had been confirmed to have died in the disaster.