The California Supreme Court has rejected an emergency constitutional challenge filed by drivers for Uber, Lyft and other app-based companies and various unions requesting that the Court declare the voter-approved Proposition 22 unconstitutional. Proposition 22 (“Prop 22”) permits some app-based gig ride-hailing and delivery companies to continue to classify workers as independent contractors despite California’s adoption of the stringent ABC test for worker classification (discussed here). The union-backed challenge to Prop 22 was not decided on the merits and continued legal activity challenging Prop 22 is expected. The lawsuit is entitled Hector Castellanos, et al. v. State of California, et al., Case Number S266551.
The passing of Prop 22 last November by voters resulted in certain app-based transportation and delivery companies being granted an exemption from the “ABC” classification test adopted in Assembly Bill 5 (“AB 5”). AB 5 codified and extended the California Supreme Court’s landmark, unanimous decision in Dynamex Operations W., Inc. v. Superior Court (2018) 4 Cal.5th 903, establishing the “ABC” test, that is utilized in other jurisdictions in a variety of contexts to distinguish employees from independent contractors, as controlling law in California.
Among other things, the union-backed lawsuit challenged Prop 22 on the basis that the proposition was unconstitutional because it is in conflict with Article XIV of the California Constitution, which unequivocally states that the provisions for the creation of a complete system of worker’s compensation “are expressly declared to be the social public policy of this State, binding upon all departments of the state government.” The lawsuit alleges that because Prop 22 purports to countermand or limit the Legislature’s otherwise “unlimited” constitutional authority to include app-based drivers in a complete system of worker’s compensation, Prop 22 is unconstitutional.
On February 3, 2021, the Supreme Court denied the Petition without prejudice to refiling in an appropriate court, which means the challenge is not over.
Take-Away for California Businesses
This lawsuit is further confirmation that independent contractor classification issues, such as AB 5 and Prop 22, will continue to be at the forefront of employment related disputes in California in 2021 and likely for years to come. Businesses that continue to utilize the services of independent contractors should revisit those classifications and consult with counsel regarding the impact of AB 5 and Prop 22.
If you have questions about independent contractor classifications contact the authors or your usual trusted counsel at AALRR.
This AALRR post is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in reaching a conclusion in a particular area of law. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. Receipt of this or any other AALRR publication does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Firm is not responsible for inadvertent errors that may occur in the publishing process.
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Aji N. Abiedu is a civil litigation attorney representing clients in a variety of litigation matters. Her practice is divided between labor and employment, products liability, professional liability, with particular emphasis in ...
Amber Healy has extensive experience litigating class actions and complex matters in state and federal courts throughout California. Her practice focuses on the defense of employers and management in class action ...
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