Crowdworkers are not employees under German Labour Law

Crowdworkers are not considered employees under German labour law under a ruling by the Higher Regional Labour Court of Munich on 4 December 2019 (docket number: 8 Sa 146/19).

What are Crowdworkers?
Crowdworkers are persons to whom so-called microjobs are offered via an Internet platform which they then carry out independently, if they accept the offers. According to the “Crowdworking Monitor” of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) from 2018, around 4.8 percent of the eligible voters in Germany work as crowdworkers.

The case
The defendant operates an Internet platform and, among other things, carries out checks on the presentation of goods in the retail trade or at petrol stations for brand manufacturers. These orders are then awarded via a crowd. If an order is accepted, it must be processed regularly within two hours according to existing specifications. In this case, there was no obligation on the crowdworker to accept an order, nor was there any obligation for the client to offer orders.
The defendant ended the cooperation with the plaintiff (the crowdworker), who then went to court arguing that an employment relationship had been formed between the crowdworker and the Internet platform operator.

The judgment
The labour court decided that crowdworkers have no employment relationship with the operator of the platform offering the orders, because they are not obliged to accept the orders.
According to the legal definition, an employment contract only exists if the contract provides for the obligation to perform work in so-called personal dependence and under employer instructions. This is generally expressed in the fact that the employee must observe work instructions regarding the time, place and content of the service owed and is integrated into the employer’s work organisation. The actual execution of the contract is decisive.
The basic agreement between the platform operator and the plaintiff did not fulfill the conditions because the crowdworker was not obliged to accept the orders offered, the court decided. According to the court, the fact that the plaintiff actually earned a substantial part of his livelihood from the contracts and for various reasons saw himself under pressure to continue accepting contracts in the future does not, according to the existing legal situation, lead to the plaintiff being able to claim the protection provisions for employees.

The court did not decide on the issue “whether a fixed-term employment relationship was established by accepting an order”, because in this case this was not relevant to the decision.
Due to the fundamental importance of the case, the court has admitted the appeal to the Federal Labour Court (BAG) in Erfurt.