As covered on this blog, California has been taking steps to limit the classification of workers as independent contractors. While this has taken on different forms, including the monumental Dynamex decision, the state legislature recently finalized its own measure with the passage of AB 5 to codify the ABC test set forth in Dynamex. The passage of the bill largely overhauls employment law across the state.
In California, the ongoing litigation around the definition of an employee versus independent contractor and the rules for meal and rest breaks threaten to upend the trucking industry. While these issues are understandably garnering significant attention, there are others across the country that could also have a large impact. Currently, a case in Arkansas may leave the industry forced to undergo massive change.
In a recent Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") decision, the United States Supreme Court unanimously made getting to arbitration more difficult for trucking companies. In Oliveira v. New Prime, the Supreme Court determined that it was for a court, not an arbitrator, to decide if the exemption in Section 1 of the FAA applies. More importantly for truckers, the Court decided that the Section 1 exemption applied to all truck drivers, whether employees or independent contractors. This means the FAA cannot be used to compel arbitration of claims involving truck drivers.
As discussed previously on this blog, recent legal developments have complicated the business plans of trucking companies that use independent contractors as drivers. These have included the Dynamex decision that changed the 30-year-old test of whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, but appears applicable only in certain circumstances and for only certain legal claims. This was followed by lawsuits to invalidate Dynamex and a federal district court decision finding that Dynamex was pre-empted by federal law. Compounding this confusion, California passed a law late last year that exposed large retailers to new potential liability. The bill, SB 1402, meant companies could be jointly liable when they hire companies that have violated state employment laws. Now shippers could be liable for violations caused by the motor carriers they hire.
As discussed previously on this blog, the Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court decision upended California's independent contractor market with a new test for whether a worker will be considered an employee. The new test was particularly problematic for the trucking industry. As such, several cases have arisen to challenge the Dynamex decision. The Western States Trucking Association (WTSA) challenged the case. Additionally, a recent California District Court decision determined federal law pre-empts Dynamex. Of course, there is a still a long way to go before Dynamex's fate is decided.
When Uber entered the market, it began to revolutionize transportation. However, along the way it has faced obstacles that in many instances have found Uber in court. One major issue it's facing is the claim by drivers that they are improperly treated by Uber as independent contractors rather than employees.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced a renewed effort to limit liability for companies with workers that are not engaged specifically by the company. A new proposed rule would protect companies from lawsuits by persons hired by contractors or franchisees.
For the last several years there's been both excitement and concern over the gig economy that seems to be growing by the day, as it starts to become the norm for more and more workers. With the explosion of companies like Lyft and Postmates, many more companies have come onto the scene. However, of late, recent news has indicated that the gig economy that is bringing a change to the way people work is still undergoing change itself.
On April 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court upended the state's independent contractor market with its decision in Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court. The Court's ruling changed the way the law will determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. The case discards the decades-old test of S. G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations (Borello) and replaces it with a new "ABC Test." We initially discussed the difference between these cases in a May 2018 post.