A new California labor law has big consequences in the argument over employee vs. independent contractor truck drivers, and a federal judge has issued a temporary restraining over keeping the law from affecting truckers for now.
U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego ruled California’s 70,000-plus independent truck drivers are not going to be held to AB 5 while he mulls over the prospect of a permanent injunction.
The California Trucking Association filed a lawsuit in November in attempt to make an independent truck driver exempt from the law, which took effect Jan. 1.
AB 5 is Assembly Bill 5, which California governor Gavin Newsom signed into law in September.
In an address to the California Assembly, Newsom said the new law “will help reduce worker misclassification – workers being wrongly classified as ‘independent contractors,’ rather than employees, which erodes basic worker protections like the minimum wage, paid sick days and health insurance benefits.”
AB 5 basically deems all workers are employees rather than independent contractors unless a company can prove otherwise. According to the law, an independent contractor is a worker who is not under the control of the hiring company and performs a job that is outside the usual course of business for that company. An independent contractor also must have their own established business for which they provide similar work to others.
An example of a business using an independent contractor is a restaurant hiring a plumber to fix broken pipes. The restaurant is not in the plumbing business, and the plumber works independently presumably performing plumbing repair work at many different types of businesses.
Employee vs. Independent Contractor Truck Drivers Legal Battle
According to the Los Angeles Times, the trucking association is arguing that AB 5 oversteps the state’s authority by infringing upon the business of interstate commerce. The association also believes many truck drivers who have invested tens of thousands of dollars in their own trucks and have the desire to set their own schedules will lose money and freedom if held to the AB 5 requirements.
Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego said in a statement she believes that following the rules of AB 5 is necessary for truck drivers to be compensated properly.
“For decades, trucking companies have profited from misclassifying drivers as independent contractors, taking away rights such as meal and rest periods and fair pay,” said Gonzalez.
The battle spills beyond the employee vs. independent contractor truck drivers arena, too.
According to NPR.org, gig companies such as Uber, Lyft and Postmates are ignoring AB 5 by refusing to reclassify drivers as employees. The gig companies reportedly are trying to create a new worker classification that is a hybrid of an employee and a contractor. The worker would essentially be a contractor with some benefits, reported NPR.
The Los Angeles Times said the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Press Photographers Association filed a suit in December, asking a federal judge to exempt freelance writers and photographers from the restrictions of AB 5 as well.
The American Society of Journalists and Authors issued a press release alleging the new California law violates the Constitution and places journalism careers at risk.
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