Uber, Postmates file legal challenge to AB 5

Signal file photo of the state's Capitol building in Sacramento

Workers with Uber and Postmates filed legal challenge to Assembly Bill 5, mere days before the law is set to take effect.

AB 5, a bill signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September and set to go into effect on Jan. 1, limits how companies can label workers as independent contractors.

The complaint, which includes two gig workers as co-plaintiffs — one from Postmates and one from Uber — was filed in U.S. District Court on Monday.

“The gig workers have standing to bring the lawsuit, as there’s been no harm to Uber or Postmates, yet,” said Brian Koegle, a partner in the employment and labor law department at Poole, Shaffery & Koegle, LLP.

The complaint argues as of Jan. 1, AB 5 is taking away gig workers’ ability to work, which, in turn, violates the Equal Protection Clause under the Constitution.

“The damage is being done to the workers by virtue of a discriminatory bill that does away with their right to work compared to others in the industry that received carve-outs,” Koegle added.

These ride-sharing companies were not among those who received carveouts, which the complaint argues means these workers are not receiving equal protection under the law when compared to those who did.

“This is a really clever argument because the Equal Protection Clause has a lower threshold of proof when proving discrimination … and the bar is more in favor of the workers,” Koegle said.

The lawsuit also asks the courts for an injunction that would pause the effective date in order to give the judicial system an opportunity to review the bill.

Because the bill was filed just days before the law is to take effect, it is unlikely that a judge will be able to render an opinion so quickly or in time for Jan. 1, making it harder to put an injunction on a law already in effect, according to Koegle.

In addition to the complaint, a group Lyft, Uber and DoorDash’s gig workers announced in October that they had submitted a California ballot initiative for the November 2020 ballot, which would ask voters to give them an exemption to AB 5.

While earlier this month, groups representing freelance writers and photographers filed a lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles on Dec. 17, alleging AB 5 places unconstitutional restrictions on free speech.

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