Brief Reprieve for Truck Drivers from Assembly Bill 5

The California Trucking Association (“Association”) challenges Assembly Bill 5 (“AB 5”) by arguing the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (“FAAAA”) of 1994 preempts state laws “relating to a price, route or service of any motor carrier”. After the California Supreme Court decided Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court (“Dynamex”) in 2018, Governor Newsom signed into law, California State Assembly Bill 5, which clarified the Dynamex independent contractor test and codified the test into law. As a result, truckers, and the positions of numerous industries historically classified as independent contractors which are not listed as exemptions, must re-classify from independent contractors to employees.

As California rang in the new year, the Association had a win, although temporary. While U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez considers imposing a permanent injunction, he granted a temporary restraining order preventing application and enforcement of AB 5 to truck drivers until he rules on the Association’s request for a preliminary injunction.

Judge Benitez’s order states that a required element of AB 5 is likely preempted by the FAAAA. This means that the court found that current federal law likely prevents at least a part of the state law, AB 5, from applying to truckers. The order also states that granting the temporary restraining order is in the public interest. AB 5 will not apply to truckers while the temporary restraining order remains effective.

On January 13, Judge Benitez will consider the Association’s request for a preliminary injunction. If the Association prevails by obtaining the preliminary injunction, truckers can continue to operate as independent contractors. Meanwhile, other groups affected by AB 5, including rideshare companies and freelance journalists, pursue their own court battles against the law which can disrupt numerous industries.

Jackson Lewis will continue to monitor the application of AB 5 and the legal developments regarding its implementation. Contact a Jackson Lewis attorney if you have questions about independent contractors, AB 5, and related cases.