Meet “Sledgehammer Shannon,” the Lawyer Who Is Uber’s Worst Nightmare

Is Uber ripping off its drivers? The woman who beat Starbucks and FedEx in court says yes. 


Liss-Riordan estimates that she’s won or settled several hundred labor cases for bartenders, cashiers, truck drivers, and other workers in the rapidly expanding service economy. Lawyers around the country have sought her input in their labor lawsuits, including one that resulted in a $100 million payout to more than 120,000 Starbucks baristas in California. (The ruling was later overturned on appeal.) In a series of cases that began in 2005, she has won multi­million-dollar settlements for FedEx drivers who had been improperly treated as contractors and were expected to buy or lease their delivery trucks, as well as pay for their own gas.

“These companies save massively by shifting many costs of running a business to the workers, profiting off the backs of their workers,” Liss-Riordan says with calm intensity as she sits in her Boston office, which is peppered with framed posters of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The bustling block below is home to two coffee chains that Liss-Riordan has sued. If the Uber case succeeds, she tells me, “maybe that will make companies think twice about steamrolling over laws.”