Uber Technologies, a car-hailing company valued at $51 billion by Wall Street, is now the subject of a class action lawsuit in California over designating its drivers as independent contractors.

Three Uber drivers originally brought the lawsuit seeking full pay and benefits and reimbursement for car expenses as company employees. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen granted the drivers’ request for class action certification. As a result, Uber drivers who did not sign a class action waiver in their contracts can join the lawsuit.

Uber said it plans to appeal but added that only a minority of the company’s 160,000 California drivers failed to sign the lawsuit waiver.

The lawsuit itself could take years to play out, observers warn, but a verdict against Uber’s business model could roil many businesses in California, and ultimately throughout the nation, which rely on freelancers.

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