Brazil's new Supreme Court minister votes in favor of general repercussion in a lawsuit about employment relationship with Uber

Experts points out that a general repercussion may be bad for workers

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | Rio de Janeiro |
Dino took office as new Supreme Court minister on February 22 - Fellipe Sampaio / SCO/STF

Brazil’s Supreme Court (STF, in Portuguese) Minister Flávio Dino spoke for the first time in a session of the Court after taking office. In a vote made through the virtual plenary, Dino was in favor of the general repercussion in a lawsuit on the employment relationship between a driver and the Uber platform.

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In practice, the ministers are deciding whether the lawsuit outcome will be replicated in similar cases. After this vote, another will be open, which will determine whether there is a valid employment relationship between drivers and the app companies.

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Dino was the second to speak on the subject in the virtual plenary and followed the vote of Minister Edson Fachin, the Supreme Court's rapporteur. The vote will be open to the other ministers until next Friday (March 1st). The issue came before the STF after a series of different understandings between different levels of the judiciary power.

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"There are divergent decisions by the Brazilian judiciary power on this controversy, which has given rise to undeniable legal uncertainty. Instead of providing security and guidance, the disparities aggravate uncertainties and make it difficult to build a stable legal framework to offer unambiguous guidelines for Brazilian citizens," said Fachin in his vote, followed by Dino.

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:: Brazil’s Supreme Court does not recognize employment relationship between delivery workers and app ::

Risks to app workers

App workers, researchers and trade unionists heard by Brasil de Fato consider it dangerous for the case to have general repercussions. In practice, if this happens and the Supreme Court rules that there is no employment relationship, app drivers and delivery workers in the country will no longer be able to win lawsuits in the Labor Court.

A letter signed by about 500 academics from 34 countries who study the subject warns that if this scenario becomes true, it would affect "the fight for the rights of all app workers". If it happens, researchers say that "once a civil contract has been signed, the facts won’t matter, and the Labor Court will be prevented from observing reality".

The letter also points out that this thesis "not only offends Brazilian legislation, which establishes that any contractual agreement aimed at avoiding the application of labor laws is null and void, but also offends recommendation 198 of the International Labor Organization, which states that the employment relationship must be verified on the basis of the facts".

This is the first time all Supreme Court ministers will decide on app work. Up until now, these decisions have been taken monocratically (when the decision is taken by just one minister) or by a panel (which does not include the entire plenary). In several of these cases, the understanding of the ministers – including Alexandre de Moraes, Cristiano Zanin, Luiz Fux and Carmen Lúcia – has benefited the app companies.

Edited by: Geisa Marques