In the first court decision on AB5’s validity, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that California’s new gig-work law does not apply to truck drivers because it is preempted by federal law.
Judge William Highberger wrote that owner-operator truck drivers should not be reclassified as employees under AB5 and the California Supreme Court decision called Dynamex on which it is based. AB5 and Dynamex establish a test that makes it harder than before for companies to claim that workers are independent contractors.
Many big-rig owners have protested the idea of becoming employees, saying they invested $150,000 or more on their trucks and operate independent businesses.
The 18-page decision said that neither AB5 nor Dynamex should apply to truck drivers because of a 1994 federal law regulating interstate commerce that endorses using independent-contractor owner-operators “to increase competition and reduce the cost of trucking services.” Under the Supremacy and Commerce clauses of the U.S. Constitution, uniform rules should apply in all 50 states, Highberger wrote.
The judge referred to a New Year’s Eve temporary restraining order granted by a federal judge restricting California from applying AB5 to the trucking industry. That order was granted in a lawsuit filed by the California Trucking Association against the state. A Jan. 13 hearing in that case will consider whether to grant a preliminary injunction.