Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) affects independent contractors throughout California, radically changing 30 years of worker classification and reclassifying millions as employees. It was signed into law effective January 1, 2020.
Of the many challenges to AB5, one has risen to the attention of California’s Supreme Court. California Trucking Association (CTA) v. Bonta could have a huge impact on AB5 while mitigating AB5’s potential effects on the trucking industry.
California Trucking Association is appealing a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that said the law can be applied to truck drivers. The opinion dismissed the long standing, independent contractor, owner-operator model pointing instead to an interpretation of the AB5 ABC test. Briefly, that test says workers are a company’s employees if they are under its direct control, engaged in its usual course of business, or do not operate their own independent businesses. The CTA’s lawsuit argued that Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (F4A) blocks any state law that might impact rates or services, wording that can be found in federal legislation passed in the early ’90s.
An injunction handed down by a Federal District Court in San Diego on New Year’s Eve 2019 temporarily protected California’s trucking sector. The injunction order clarified that if the Supreme Court denied certiorari, (refusing to review CTA’s petition) the stay against AB5 in California’s trucking sector would end immediately.
That injunction has continued to keep AB5 at bay in the trucking sector even as the CTA saw two levels of the state’s appellate courts rule against it after its successful quest to get a federal district court to impose the injunction.
The Supreme Court’s yearly term begins on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October the following year. On October fourth the court denied a petition for certiorari in a similar case by Cal Cartage Transportation Express LLC. Petitions submitted for review are considered within 60 days according to Courts.ca.gov. The justices have yet to consider whether to take up CTA’s challenge. A decision is expected in the next week or so, but certainly by the end of November.
While they’re keeping their eyes on the road, owner-operator truck drivers across the country are also keeping their eyes on the 2021-2022 California Supreme Court session.