SAN DIEGO – California’s freelance truckers are temporarily exempt from the state’s new Assembly Bill 5 gig economy law after a ruling from a federal judge on Dec. 31.
U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez of the Southern District of California issued the order, temporarily exempting independent truck drivers across the Golden State from the rules of the new bill.
“The court finds that plaintiffs’ requested temporary restraining order is warranted,” wrote Benitez. “Plaintiffs have established that imminent, irreparable harm is likely because without significantly transforming their operations to treat independent contracting drivers as employees for all specified purposes under California laws and regulations, they face the risk of governmental enforcement actions, as well as criminal and civil penalties.”
Benitez declared that his ruling was in the public’s interest and that the bill clashes with laws surrounding interstate commerce.
While the ruling was a big win and a huge step for truckers, both the California Trucking Association (CTA) and the Western State Trucking Association (WSTA) are continuing to push for injunction to cease enforcement of AB 5 on the industry altogether.
The bill, which took effect at the turn of the year, places more restrictions on employers from classifying workers as contractors.
Independent truckers still need one final win for permanent exemption from the law, and the WSTA likes its chances based on the judge’s recent ruling.
“What the judge says in the five-pager seems to kind of telegraph that it looks very positive for a permanent injunction,” Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs and communications for the WSTA, said.
Rajkovacz explained that the temporary restraining order is against the entirety of AB 5, not just partially restricting the law. He also explained that the sought-after permanent injunction, while good, may not last forever.
“Permanent injunction doesn’t throw out AB 5, it just suspends any enforcement," he said. "A permanent injunction is very likely to lead to an appeal to the 9th Circuit (Court of Appeals).”
A hearing on the permanent injunction for truck drivers is set to take place Monday, Jan. 13 in San Diego. California truckers are not alone in the battle against AB 5 as Uber, Postmates and the American Society of Freelance Journalists and Authors are among other key organizations seeking complete exemption from the contentious bill.