Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order on Tuesday, December 31st, to halt enforcement of California’s Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), regarding truck drivers, only hours before the law went into effect on January 1, 2020.  AB 5, often referred to as the gig worker law, codifies and expands the “ABC” test set forth in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, making it much harder for companies to claim workers are independent contractors.

Although AB 5 exempts a number of professions and services from the ABC test, truck drivers are not included among the exemptions. The California National Trucking Association sued, asking the court to declare that the test does not apply to the trucking industry, based on preemption by federal law prohibiting states from making laws that impact certain aspects of freight-hauling motor carriers.  

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez agreed that the California National Trucking Association met its burden for emergency relief by showing “they were likely to succeed on the merits” of their claim, and would “suffer irreparable harm” if not given relief. A hearing on the group’s request for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for January 13th.

Other organizations, including food delivery providers, rideshare companies and freelance journalist groups, have also filed suit to challenge AB 5, and numerous companies have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to fund a ballot initiative that would offer an alternative model for gig economy workers. 

The author would like to gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Joanne Warriner.