Federal judge blocks “gig economy” rule for truckers, but not journalists

A federal judge in California has temporarily blocked part of a new state law that codifies a test determining whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee of a company.

The restraining order makes the measure inapplicable to around 70,000 independent truck drivers throughout California, though the law still applies to other professions, including artists, photographers, journalists and drivers for rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft.

In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the measure, Assembly Bill 5, which put into law a so-called “A-B-C test” that determines based on a series of variable factors whether a person hired by a company is considered an independent contractor or an employee. The test arose from a lawsuit filed by an independent truck driver; the case was eventually settled in California’s supreme court.

Shortly after the court case, Asm. Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego drafted AB 5, seeking to have the A-B-C test interred as state law. Despite opposition from workers in industries that were covered by the bill, lawmakers passed A.B. 5 along party lines with few concessions.

Journalists, writers and editors received a light exemption from the A-B-C test, though only if a company accepts fewer than 35 works for publication in a year.

Two groups that represent freelance writers, editors and photographers filed a joint lawsuit in federal court last month seeking to invalidate AB 5 for their industry, saying the law created “unique and significant burdens” for writers and photographers different from those placed on workers in other fields.

That lawsuit is still making its way through the court system.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in San Diego decided to issue a temporary restraining order in a similar lawsuit filed by the California Trucking Association. U.S. District Coutt Judge Roger Benitez said in a five-page opinion that the trucking group had presented enough of a case that “warranted” a temporary reprieve from the new law.

A hearing has been set in that case for January 13.