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Lower court formally lifts injunction against AB5 in California trucking

Appellate court reversal of earlier injunction now in effect following Supreme Court’s decision not to review

Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

The injunction that kept California’s independent contractor law, AB5, out of the state’s trucking sector is officially dead.

In a hearing Monday, according to a statement released by trucking-focused law firm Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary, Federal District Court Judge Robert Benitez formally lifted the injunction that had been in effect since New Year’s Eve 2019. A filing by the court of its ruling was not available online at publication time. 

The lifting of the injunction, which was expected, puts into effect an April 2021 U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that overturned the original injunction handed down by Benitez. The appellate court ruling reversing the Benitez injunction nonetheless allowed the injunction to stay in place while the California Trucking Association, which filed the original lawsuit in the case, pursued its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

When the high court chose not to review the case, California Trucking Association v. Bonta, that put it back into the hands of the appellate court. That court in turn handed down a mandate to the district court ordering the reversal of the injunction. The action Monday formalized that step.

But the case is not over. The legal arguments put forth by the CTA — that AB5 as applied to trucking in California violates parts of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act — was only argued through motions on the injunction, rather than a full court procedure. The CTA will now pursue the case from the beginning and has asked for a new injunction. None was forthcoming Monday.

According to the Scopelitis memo, an earlier Benitez ruling that denied a CTA argument regarding AB5 and the Dormant Commerce Clause, which impacts interstate commerce, was vacated by Benitez, per the request of the CTA. The issue of whether the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) can intervene in the case remains to be decided.

Next steps are the filing of briefs in the case, which can take place into December, according to an earlier court filing. 

AB5 requires workers be judged against the provisions of the so-called ABC test to settle the question of whether they are independent contractors or employee. In particular for trucking, the so-called B prong is troublesome, as it says an independent contractor must be involved in “work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.” A trucking company hiring an outside truck driver runs the risk of being ruled in violation of the B prong.

The ruling did bring a quick media outreach from a public relations firm offering up commentary from the union side of the ledger.

Today, drivers across California can rest easy knowing that trucking companies that have gotten away with misclassifying workers can no longer exploit their workers or the people of California to further their bottom line,” the email from Teamsters PR agency Berlin Rosen said. “These companies are going to be held accountable, and drivers’ rights will be protected under the law.”

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  1. Tommy

    I am a California owner operator. I was just told my services will no longer be needed. No other company will hire me as an owner operator and I am now scrambling to move out of California. I almost paid off my house in California the kids and wife are happy. But now we are moving. Unless someone know where I can get hired as an owner operator in California.

  2. Paul

    So what’s happening in Cal. and several other Democratic Party run States is this. “Get Rid of the Little Guy”. Use any means necessary to squeeze him out and take over. Basic first and second steps to Socialisms. In Cal’s. near future two or three trucking companies will move all the freight. There will be one supreme greedy Governor and his loyal Oligarchs, exactly like Russia… You deplorables will be selling used tires and fighting for a scrap of goat meat for your families. If America keeps going in the direction our present leaders are taking us I’ll give it 7 to 10 years before America is taken over by the strongest military power or sold in pieces to China, Iran, Russia, etc…
    And,,, the Democratic Party Members that caused this downfall of OUR America will be living peacefully and extravagantly in Paraguay..

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.