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Trucking group asks SCOTUS to review California classification law

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A truck drives west toward California along Highway 8 near Gila Bend, Arizona, United States, October 10, 2016. REUTERS / Mike Blake

  • 9th Circuit said state law was not preempted by federal regulations
  • Business group says move threatens successful independent business model

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(Reuters) – A trucking industry group has called for a U.S. Supreme Court review of a ruling dismissing its challenge to California’s strict worker classification law, saying it is preempted by federal regulations governing trucking companies.

The California Trucking Association on Monday filed a certiorari petition claiming that the April 9th ​​US Court of Appeals ruling upholding the law known as AB5 threatens the long-standing “owner-operator” model. In which the drivers who own their trucks work as independent contractors.

The CTA said the AB5 is pre-empted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA), which also applies to the trucking industry and prohibits states from enacting laws that dictate prices, routes and services. offered by road carriers.

“Congress has used particularly broad precautionary language in the FAAAA to avoid the development of a patchwork of laws determining state services, acting to ensure that fares, routes and trucking services reflect market forces. competitive, ”the group said.

CTA is represented by Mayer Brown and Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart.

The California attorney general’s office and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represent numerous truck drivers and intervened in the case to defend state law, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

AB5 codified a test created by the California Supreme Court in Dynamex Operations West Inc v. Superior court. The three-part “ABC test” indicates that workers are employees of a business if they are under its direct control, engaged in the ordinary course of business, or not operating their own independent business.

The standard, which has been adopted by other states including Massachusetts and New Jersey, has come under heavy criticism from business groups who say it is impossible for many companies to hire independent contractors.

In its lawsuit, CTA said AB5 would hurt trucking companies by forcing them to purchase and maintain fleets of trucks and provide drivers with meal and rest breaks and other employee benefits.

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez granted the CTA a preliminary injunction in January 2020, ruling that AB5 would affect the services and prices offered by trucking companies and was therefore preempted. A month later, Benitez refused to reject CTA’s request for preemption.

The state appealed and the 9th Circuit in April overturned a 2-1 decision. Generally applicable laws can have indirect effects on how businesses operate, the court said, but are well within the powers of states to regulate labor relations.

Dissenting circuit judge Mark Bennett said AB5’s impact on trucking companies is so great that it ultimately dictates the prices and services they can offer.

The CTA in Monday’s petition told the Supreme Court that Bennett was right. Because truck drivers are by definition engaged in the normal course of business for trucking companies, AB5 prevents them from ever being classified as independent contractors, the group said.

The case is California Trucking Association v. Bonta, United States Supreme Court, issue not available.

For the CTA: Charles Rothfeld of Mayer Brown; Robert Roginson of Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart

For the State: Jose Zelidon-Zepeda of the California Attorney General’s Office

Read more:

California Worker Classification Act Applies To Truck Drivers – Circuit 9

Judge Won’t Reject Key California Trucking Group Claim in AB5 Challenge

Trucking Group Obtains California Worker Classification Act Injunction

Daniel Wiessner

Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) discusses labor, employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy development. He can be reached at [email protected]


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