The California Supreme Court on Wednesday denied petitions to review an injunction requiring Uber and Lyft to reclassify their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. The companies argued that the passage of Proposition 22 last year overwrites that order.
The decision leaves in place seemingly contradictory pieces of legal framework surrounding worker protections in California, as the injunction and Prop. 22 are at direct odds as to how the state’s rideshare drivers can be classified.
San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman issued the injunction last August after California sued Uber and Lyft under AB 5, the landmark law that took effect in 2020 and made it much harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors. The law codified the California Supreme Court’s decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles (2018) 4 Cal.5th 903, setting out what’s known as the “ABC test” for determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor.
California’s First District Court of Appeal affirmed Schulman’s injunction in October. But under Proposition 22 — a $200 million ballot measure funded by Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash that more than 58 percent of California voters approved in the 2020 general election — app-based transportation and delivery drivers are exempted from the ABC test.
After Prop. 22 passed, Uber and Lyft asked the First District to reconsider its decision upholding the injunction, arguing that the passage of the measure meant the order was no longer appropriate, but the appeals court denied rehearing.
The California Supreme Court declined to review the case in a short Wednesday docket order. It also denied Uber and Lyft’s request to depublish the lower court’s opinion.
A spokesperson for the California Attorney General’s office said in an email that the office is pleased with the decision.
The day after the court’s order, four app-based drivers and the Service Employees International Union filed a petition for a writ of mandate in Alameda County Superior Court seeking to overturn Prop. 22, alleging the measure is unconstitutional. Last week the state’s high court rejected a similar challenge to the measure from the SEIU, but noted that its decision was “without prejudice to refiling in an appropriate court.”
In a statement emailed through the campaign that supported Prop. 22, Lyft driver Jimmy Strano said that “special interests” are “continuing to undermine the will of California voters across the political spectrum who overwhelmingly passed Prop 22.”
“We’re confident these attacks on California voters and our electoral process will continue to be rejected by the courts,” Strano said.
The cases are People v. Uber Technologies, case number S265881, in the Supreme Court of California; and Castellanos v. State of California, in the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda.
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