Halfway through 2016, the employment law landscape has already seen several big decisions in the appellate courts.

Steven W. Suflas of Ballard Spahr LLP said misclassification cases against Uber and FedEx, even though they didn’t involve issues of case law, are among the most important of the year thus far.

Uber announced earlier this year that it had reached a settlement of up to $100 million in two closely watched class actions with its drivers in California and Massachusetts that included the issue of whether Uber’s classification of drivers as independent contractors is unlawful. As part of the agreement reached, the drivers would remain classified as independent contractors, not employees.

"The misclassification of independent contractors will continue to be a huge issue," Suflas said, noting that FedEx ultimately decided to settle the case after years of costly litigation.

Uber’s case, Suflas said, is interesting in that the company has taken "clever" steps like working with the machinists’ union to address issues raised by the drivers as a way to head off litigation without ultimately having to reclassify them.

"They are trying to protect their independent contractor model, but doing it in creative ways," Suflas said. "By addressing non-Fair Labor Standards Act concerns raised by drivers, Uber [may be] giving folks new ways to address independent contractor issues."

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