Western States Trucking Association takes challenge of ABC test to Ninth Circuit

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line associate editor | 4/22/2019

The Western States Trucking Association is appealing a U.S. district court’s decision that said California’s standard for classifying workers wasn’t pre-empted by federal law. The trucking group filed its challenge with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on April 18.

Western States contended that Dynamex was pre-empted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act or F4A, federal safety regulations, and the Commerce Clause. The F4A prevents a state from enacting or enforcing “a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service any motor carrier … with respect to the transportation of property.”

In March, Judge Morrison C. England Jr. for the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of California ruled that the Dynamex decision does not create an excessive burden to interstate commerce.

“Western States’ claim that Dynamex invalidates the use of independent contractor drivers, and consequently affects interstate commerce is unavailing,” Judge England wrote. “California’s wage orders do not prohibit the use of such drivers. Instead, they simply provide a framework for establishing whether a given individual should be deemed an employee or an independent contractor.”

After the dismissal, Western States said it was willing to fight the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The case sets up the question of how a trucking company can use independent trucking contractors without violating the B-prong of the ABC test,” Western States wrote in its online newsletter on March 29.

“We are looking forward to our legal arguments being heard on appeal. We will be perfecting the appeal shortly and remain committed to taking this question to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.”

In 2018, the California Supreme Court’s Dynamex decision established the ABC test, which considers all workers to be employees unless the hiring business demonstrates that all of the factors are established:

  • A. That the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.
  • B. That the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.
  • C. That the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

The decision caused a stir in the trucking industry, and Western States, as well as the California Trucking Association, quickly filed lawsuits. The trucking groups argue that the B prong makes it impossible for a trucking company to hire an independent contractor to haul a load.

The California Trucking Association is battling a similar case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

CTA argues that the B prong of the test makes it impossible to hire independent contractors and is pre-empted by federal law.

“Dynamex will force CTA’s motor-carrier members ‘to cease contracting with owner-operators to perform trucking services for customers in California and to shift to using employee drivers only,’ and this de facto compulsion to use employee drivers will directly impact the services, routes, and prices offered by CTA’s motor-carrier members to their customers,” CTA’s attorneys wrote in a court filing on April 16.



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