The lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles federal court is a preemptive strike against the state’s landmark measure designed to ensure gig workers receive employment protections. Uber and Postmates argue the legislative process around California’s Assembly Bill 5 unfairly targeted gig economy companies while favoring other industries and that the law will threaten workers’ flexibility.
The passage of A.B. 5, which takes effect Wednesday, has set in motion a
Uber and Postmates say it’s arbitrary that direct salespeople, travel agents, grant writers, construction truck drivers, commercial fishermen and others are exempted from the law.
“There is no rhyme or reason to these nonsensical exemptions, and some are so ill-defined or entirely undefined that it is impossible to discern what they include or exclude,” according to the complaint.
The impact of A.B. 5 -- and the backlash against it -- extends beyond the technology industry. Two organizations representing freelance journalists brought a legal challenge this month, saying the law restricts free speech and the news media by effectively limiting the number of articles a contract journalist can write for the same publication each year. The trucking industry, in its own
But tech companies have far more at stake financially if they are forced to provide overtime pay, health care and other benefits to the armies of contract laborers they rely on to drive customers around and deliver food. With their business models threatened,
The labor issue looms as a risk for Postmates as it heads toward a
In Monday’s complaint, Uber, Postmates and one driver from each company who are also plaintiffs said they want a judge to block A.B. 5 from being implemented. They alleged that the law violates guarantees of equal protection afforded by both the U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution.
The companies take particular aim at the sponsor of the bill,
”The one clear thing we know about Uber is they will do anything to try to exempt themselves from state regulations that make us all safer and their driver employees self-sufficient,” she said in response to Monday’s lawsuit. “In the meantime, Uber chief executives will continue to become billionaires while too many of their drivers are forced to sleep in their cars.”
Signed by California Governor
Legal experts say the law weakens gig economy companies’ arguments that their drivers are independent contractors, and will make it much harder for them to continue denying California drivers benefits including business expense reimbursements that would ordinarily be available to employees.
”This complaint is an attempt to dress up the companies’ political arguments against A.B. 5 in constitutional clothing,” Charlotte Garden, a professor at Seattle University School of Law, said in an email. The lawsuit is probably dead-on-arrival, she said, based on courts’ recognition “that legislative line-drawing is inevitable, and legislatures have to be able to tackle problems piecemeal.”
Uber has acknowledged the higher hurdle A.B. 5 poses for the company, but has said the law is no “
California Attorney General
The case is Olson v. State of California, 2:19-cv-10956, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).
(Updates with state attorney general’s office reviewing complaint)
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