A US District judge indefinitely blocked California’s Assembly Bill 5 from applying to more than 70,000 independent truck drivers, deciding that it is preempted by federal rules on interstate commerce.
The state law that took effect Jan. 1 makes it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees who are entitled to minimum wage and benefits such as workers compensation.
But when it comes to independent truckers, “California runs off the road and into the preemption ditch” of federal law, wrote U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego.
He granted the California Trucking Association a preliminary injunction, indefinitely extending his earlier temporary restraining order until the association’s challenge is ultimately resolved in months or years.
“There is little question that the State of California has encroached on Congress’ territory by eliminating motor carriers’ choice to use independent contractor drivers, a choice at the very heart of interstate trucking,” Benitez wrote. He added that the state law would produce “the patchwork of state regulations Congress sought to prevent.”
The state attorney general’s office said it is reviewing the judge’s decision in the trucking case, adding that “our office has and will continue to defend laws that are designed to protect workers and ensure fair labor and business practices.”