California Judge Rules State's Gig Worker Law Unconstitutional

On August 20, 2021, Judge Frank Roesch of the California Superior Court in Alameda County ruled that Proposition 22 is unconstitutional. Proposition 22 was passed by voters last year and allowed Uber, Lyft, Door Dash, and other gig-company drivers to remain independent contractors and limited worker benefits. 

In his decision, the California judge had the following three findings: 

  1. Prop. 22 restricted gig workers’ eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits – In the event of workplace injury, workers’ compensation provides injured employees with certain benefits to help them recover from injury and financial support when they are out of work. Since the State Legislature can set and control workers’ compensation under California’s Constitution, the judge said Prop. 22 violated California’s Constitution because it limits state lawmakers’ ability to offer and regulate workers’ compensation for gig workers. 

  1. Prop. 22 prevents lawmakers from drastically changing the law – There are several provisions in Prop. 22 which inherently prevent the Legislature from making any changes to the law. For instance, any future amendments must be passed by a seven-eighths vote of approval. Additionally, the law also requires that changes must be “consistent” with Prop. 22, which blocks state lawmakers from making significant changes or reversing the law. 

  1. Prop. 22 prevents gig workers from forming unions – The law restricts the gig workers’ right to collectively bargain for compensation, work conditions, and benefits. The judge said this provision is unconstitutional since a collective bargaining law should be viewed as “unrelated legislation.” 

In 2019, California lawmakers passed a law, which required gig companies like Uber and Lyft to classify their drivers as employees. The state general sued the two rideshare corporations to enforce the law, and the companies threatened to leave California in response. 

In November 2020, Prop. 22 was approved by approximately 59 percent of state residents. However, a lawsuit backed by the Services Employees International Union was filed in January, arguing the unconstitutionality of Prop. 22. 

Yet, the California Supreme Court decided not to hear the case, which temporarily ended the challenge. But after the petition was refiled in a lower court, this recent ruling was the result. 

California’s attorney general and the defense may file an appeal, which could take several months. Despite the ruling, Prop. 22 remains in effect. 

If you are dealing with an employment law issue in California, contact Polaris Law Group today at (888) 796-4010 for more information about our experienced legal services. Serving clients in Redding, Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Oakland, San Francisco, the Bay Area, Stockton & Modesto, Pleasanton, Redwood City, San Jose, the Silicon Valley, Hollister, Salinas, Fresno, Bakersfield, Santa Barbara, Oxnard, Santa Clarita, Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange County, and San Diego. 

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