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German Federal Labour Court decision on the case of a crowdworker and relative salary

  • The German Federal Labour Court (No. 9 AZR 102/201, 1 December 2020) re-classified the crowdworker as an employee
  • It determined also that for remuneration purposes, the company shall not be bound by pre-established fees that the worker received as a self-employed worker. 

In this case, the micro task performed by the crowdworker consisted in taking pictures of goods for presenting in retail outlets and petrol stations. According to the agreement between the microtaskers and the company, when the crowdworker takes an order, he/she must perform the task within two hours. The worker was incentivised to work more as he/she would receive points for completed jobs and could accept multiple jobs at the same time. 

In his complaint, the crowdworker requested the Court to be recognised as an employee for the platform company and, once the company finalised their agreement, he claimed to be entitled to his salary and the compensation for unlawful dismissal. The Court admitted the existence of an employment relationship based on the fact that the worker was integrated into an “organisational structure”, was subject to instructions and was not able to “freely design his activities in terms of location, time and content”. Also, the incentive system meant that the worker felt obliged to accept further orders continuously.

However, the lower Labour Court (Regional Labour Court Munich, 4 December 2019, ref. 8 Sa 146/19) that was called to decide on the outstanding claims denied the compensation.

According to the Federal Court press release on this case, “the plaintiff cannot simply demand the payment of a remuneration in accordance with the fees he had previously received as a supposedly freelancer. If an allegedly free employment relationship turns out to be an employment relationship in retrospect, it cannot usually be assumed that the amount of the remuneration agreed for the freelancer is also agreed for employment as an employee. The usual remuneration must be clarified by the regional Labour Court in accordance with Section 612 (2) of the Civil Code”.

The classification of this crowdworkers as an employee implies “the application of regulations on working hours, vacation claims and employee protection, such as protection against discrimination for employees in atypical employment relationships and especially collective protection rights in the event of restructuring”.  

The motivations of the judgement are not yet available at the time of writing, but the press release of the Federal Labour Court on this case is already of great interest for future policy discussions. Indeed, in other countries, for similar cases, the Court re-classification implied the automatic payment of the past salaries in the same amount as the fees agreed for a self-employed plus the payment of past social security contributions (see the case of Glovo in Spain that we reported in October 2020, for instance).