California Assembly Bill 5 or AB 5 is a state statute that expands a landmark Supreme Court of California case from 2018, Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court ("Dynamex"). In that case, the court held that most wage-earning workers are employees and ought to be classified as such, and that the burden of proof for classifying individuals as independent contractors belongs to the hiring entity. AB 5 extends that decision to all workers. It entitles them to be classified as employees with the usual labor protections, such as minimum wage laws, sick leave, and unemployment and workers' compensation benefits, which do not apply to independent contractors. Concerns over employee misclassification, especially in the gig economy, drove support for the bill, but it remains divisive.
|California Assembly Bill 5 (2019)|
|California State Legislature|
|Full name||An act to amend Section 3351 of, and to add Section 2750.3 to, the Labor Code, and to amend Sections 606.5 and 621 of the Unemployment Insurance Code, relating to employment, and making an appropriation therefor|
|Assembly voted||2019-09-11 (56–15)|
|Senate voted||2019-09-10 (29–11)|
|Signed into law||2019-09-18|
|Governor||Governor Gavin Newsom|
|Code||Labor Code and Unemployment Insurance Code|
|Section||3351, 2750.3, 606.5, 621|
|Website||Full text of the bill|
Status: Current legislation
This article needs to be updated. The reason given is: The information is accurate but obsolete. In 2020, AB 5 was extensively revised and reintroduced as AB 2257. That bill was written into California law, i.e., codified, late in the year.(February 2021)
The law codifies and expands the scope of the so-called "ABC test", established in the Dynamex ruling. That test states that a worker must be classified as an employee, and not a contractor, unless the employment meets all of the following conditions: (A) the individual is free from direction and control applicable both under the contract for the performance of service and in fact; (B) the service is performed outside the usual course of business of the employer; and (C) the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed.: 
In response to the passage of AB 5, many industries began to lobby for exemptions. Approximately 100 professions were specifically exempted from AB5; generally being professions seen to directly work with and set their own prices to customers.
The ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft both lobbied heavily against passage of the bill, and after it was passed they lobbied unsuccessfully to get the California legislature to exempt ridesharing from the bill. They (along with food delivery company DoorDash) also refused, after the bill's passage, to reclassify their drivers as employees. The three companies, now also joined by Instacart and Postmates, funded a ballot initiative, Proposition 22, to exempt both ridesharing and delivery companies from the AB 5 requirements, while also giving drivers some new protections, including minimum wage and per-mile expense reimbursement. Proposition 22 passed in November 2020 with 59% of the vote.
Provisions and historyEdit
On April 30, 2018, the Supreme Court of California ruled in Dynamex to impose strict requirements for employee classification. It created a 3-part test to determine whether an employee could be classified as a contractor rather than an employee, commonly known as the "ABC" test, replacing, for wage order claims, a previous 11-point standard set in an earlier case, S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations ("Borello") in 1989 (the Borello test).
AB 5, introduced in December 2018, places the expansion of the Dynamex ruling on a statutory footing by inserting §2750.3 to the California Labor Code, and, as a general rule, puts the burden of proof on employers to show that a worker is properly classified as an independent contractor where all three of the following conditions are met:
- the worker is free from the control and direction of the employer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact
- the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity's business
- the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity
This test is excluded in certain specified cases, where Borello will continue to apply. This is declared without qualification for a specified list of occupations, For other stated professional, B2B and construction services, separate lists of conditions must also be fully applicable in order to establish that a worker is an independent contractor. Real estate licensees and repossession agencies were declared to be governed by the California Business and Professions Code instead.
The proposed law also gives cities in the state the right to sue companies for violating the law, where previously they could not. The California Attorney General's office and local prosecutors can also sue companies.
Proponents of the bill said it would give workers previously classified as contractors minimum wage, overtime, sick leave, unemployment and other benefits, and prevent the state from losing $8 billion from unpaid payroll taxes. Opponents said it would increase labor costs by up to 30%, create higher costs and reduced service for customers and reduce flexibility for workers.
After discussions and amendments to the law, which primarily included exceptions for certain professions, the bill first passed the Assembly in May 2019. In August 2019, as the bill neared passage, gig economy companies Uber and Lyft also proposed a negotiated $21 minimum wage but to keep employees as independent contractors as an exception. The proposals were not accepted by the legislature. Other amendments and exceptions were made, primarily to exclude particular professions. The bill drew national attention, including the support of major Democratic Party 2020 presidential candidates.
After its final passage in the legislature, on September 11, 2019, Uber and Lyft both said they had no plans to reclassify workers as employees, with Uber's Chief Legal Officer Tony West saying "Just because the test is hard doesn’t mean we won’t be able to pass it. We continue to believe that drivers are properly classified as independent."
In response to the implementation of the law, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reinstated its decision in Vazquez v. Jan-Pro, which impacts California franchise law and California independent contractor law, by making it unclear that if a franchisor licenses its trademark to a franchisee the franchisor incurs the liabilities of an employer.
AB 5 was introduced by California assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and endorsed by Governor Gavin Newsom. It was approved by the California State Senate 29–11 on a party-line vote, by the Assembly 56–15, and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 18, 2019. It took effect January 1, 2020.
Approximately 100 professions were specifically exempted from AB5, including doctors, dentists, psychologists, insurance agents, stockbrokers, lawyers, accountants, engineers, real estate agents, travel agents, graphic designers, songwriters, architects, youth sports coaches, and some freelance writers, producers, and cartographers, as they are generally seen to work directly with and set their prices to customers.
Others are exempt with conditions, such as hairstylists, cosmetologists, and manicurists if they set their own pay rates, are paid directly by customers, and schedule appointments themselves. Salespeople are exempt if they are paid based on actual sales. Commercial fishermen are exempt except from unemployment insurance.
Newspaper companies will be given an extra year before having to reclassify their delivery workers, as the extra costs may be an overwhelming burden for some news organizations currently in a precarious financial state.
In response to the passage of AB 5, several industries began to lobby Sacramento for exemptions. The industries that were granted exemptions tended to have the following characteristics:
In November 2019, the California Trucking Association, representing about 70,000 truck drivers in the state, filed suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, challenging both the California Supreme Court Dynamex ruling and AB 5. The Association argues that many of the represented drivers had opted to be independent contractors after having been employeed drivers, as this allows them to set their own schedules and otherwise profit from owning their own vehicle. Enforcement of AB 5 would force them to be treated as employees and lose these benefits, the Association argued.
On December 17, 2019, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Press Photographers Association filed suit in United States District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division claiming the law unconstitutionally singled out freelance journalists by limiting the amount of work they can produce for any single publisher, unlike any other job category listed as "professional services".
Reception and impactEdit
On the music industryEdit
The Recording Academy expressed concerns that AB 5 would negatively impact gigging musicians, and stated that it is lobbying California lawmakers to inform them about "the impact of such legislation".
Director of San Jose Jazz Brendan Rawson argued that because AB 5 requires any music venue to designate members of an act performing there even once as official employees of the venue itself, events such as music festivals would be severely and unnecessarily burdened. The only way around this, Rawson said, is for musicians to incorporate themselves. Rawson pointed out that this extended beyond the musicians themselves, citing temporary hiring of SJPD officers for the San Jose Jazz's Summer Fest, all of whom would be added as San Jose Jazz employees.
The Lake Tahoe Music Festival announced it is shutting down after 40 years due to AB 5 and COVID-19.
On freelance journalismEdit
Forbes criticized the bill's limits on freelance journalism and is advocating for California to change it.: Assemblywoman Gonzalez acknowledged that some freelance journalists lost substantial income. Several days prior, in response to potential job losses resulting from the bill, Gonzalez tweeted, "These were never good jobs. No one has ever suggested that, even freelancers. We will continue to work on this next year."
In December 2019 Vox Media ended contracts with about 200 freelance sports writers and editors who wrote for the blog network SB Nation, and announced it would replace them with 20 new part-time and full-time employees.: The company had carried stories supportive of AB 5. Assemblywoman Gonzalez criticized Vox, referring to them as “vultures” in connection with their previous use of freelance writers.
Freelance journalists who live in California fear that it will be harder to get work, because companies will not want to deal with the additional paperwork and legal liabilities of AB 5 and will instead hire someone from another state.:
In response to the new law, Uber has made several changes to its app for drivers in California, such as allowing drivers to see destinations in advance, and removing penalties for rejecting rides. It has also started testing a new feature that allows drivers to set their own rates, in 10% increments, with the passenger seeing the lowest fare accepted by an available driver, and drivers seeing how long they will likely wait to get dispatched based on their chosen rate.
In May 2020, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued Uber and Lyft, alleging the ride-hailing companies had misclassified their drivers as "independent contractors" rather than "employees" in violation of AB5. The suit alleged that Uber and Lyft denied their workers mandated "employee" benefits and protections such as minimum wage and overtime pay, reimbursement for business-related expenses, unemployment and disability insurance, and paid sick leave.
California Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman issued his ruling on August 10, 2020, stating that Uber and Lyft must treat their drivers as employees under AB-5, as their work in the context of the "ABC test" was not outside the usual course of their business, nor was a "multi-sided platform" as Uber and Lyft had argued but simply transportation companies that fell within AB-5's provisions. Both Uber and Lyft have stated their plans to appeal the ruling as well as seek an injunction to stay the order until the appeal is complete.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer sued several trucking companies, alleging that they were violating AB5 by classifying their drivers as "independent contractors" rather than "employees", but Superior Court judge William Highberger decided that AB5 is pre-empted by the Federal Aviation and Administration Authorization Act of 1994.
- Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, (2018) 4 Cal. 5th 903 (Cal. Sup. Ct. April 30, 2018).
- Myers, John; Bhuiyan, Johana; Roosevelt, Margot (2019-09-18). "Newsom signs bill rewriting California employment law, limiting use of independent contractors". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2019-09-24. Retrieved 2019-09-18.
But while the legislation began as a way to formalize the 2018 court ruling, it quickly became the focus of a high-stakes lobbying effort over which kinds of jobs and industries deserved exemption from the new rules. Doctors, accountants, architects, real estate agents, travel agents, graphic designers and investment advisors — along with many other professions — will not be subject to the strict employee rules under the new law. Other exemptions come with conditions. Commercial fishermen are exempt except from unemployment insurance. Barbers, cosmetologists and manicurists are exempt only if they set their own rates, are paid directly by clients and schedule their own appointments. Salespeople are exempt, provided their pay is based on actual sales rather than wholesale purchases or referrals.
- Siddiqui, Faiz (2019-09-11). "California Senate passes ride-hail bill that has divided Democrats over the future of Uber and Lyft drivers". Washington Post. Retrieved 2020-01-17.
- Margolin, Joelle (March 11, 2020). "AB 5 in California: A New Era for Independent Contractors and Freelance Workers". Woodruff Sawyer. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
- "Uber and Lyft Fight a Law They Say Doesn't Apply to Them - The ride-hail companies are backing a ballot measure to overturn a California law intended to transform gig-economy workers from contractors to employees". Wired. 31 October 2019. Archived from the original on 2019-11-06. Retrieved 2020-10-14.
AB 5 codifies a 2018 California Supreme Court decision that established a three-part test to determine who is an employee and who is an independent contractor. Under the new law, workers can be classified as independent contractors only if they’re not under the control or direction of the company while working; if their work is “outside the usual course” of the company’s business; and if they are usually doing the same kind of work they do for that company anyway.
- O'Brien, Sara Ashley. "Uber claims new California law still won't force it to classify drivers as employees". CNN. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
- Ghaffary, Shirin (2019-09-11). "Uber and Lyft say they don't plan to reclassify their drivers as employees". Vox. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
- "California Proposition 22, App-Based Drivers as Contractors and Labor Policies Initiative (2020)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 2020-07-25.
- Conger, Kate (2019-08-29). "Uber, Lyft and DoorDash Pledge $90 Million to Fight Driver Legislation in California". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
- (Garcia v. Border Transportation Group, LLC (2018) 28 Cal.App.5th 558 [239 Cal.Rptr.3d 360].)
- S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations, (1989) 48 Cal. 3d 341 (Cal. Sup. Ct. March 23, 1989).
- Dillon, Liam (2019-09-11). "Sweeping bill rewriting California employment law sent to Gov. Newsom". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
- "The Dynamex Decision: The California Supreme Court Restricts Use of Independent Contractors". Labor & Employment Law Blog. 2018-05-01. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
- "California Senate passes bill to tighten 'gig' worker rule". Reuters. 11 September 2019. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
- Canon, Gabrielle (10 September 2019). "California's controversial labor bill has passed. Experts forecast more worker rights, higher prices for services". USA Today. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
- "How to Operate in California with Independent Contractors After AB 5 Bill Is Signed Into Law". JD Supra. 11 September 2019. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
- Labor Code 2750.3(a)
- Labor Code 2750.3(b)
- Labor Code 2750.3(c), (e)–(f)
- Labor Code 2750.3(d)
- Said, Carolyn (2019-09-16). "AB 5 gig work bill: All your questions answered". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2019-09-18.
- Said, Carolyn; Gardiner, Dustin (2019-09-11). "California legislature passes AB 5 gig-work bill, which could turn contractors into employees". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
A lengthy list of professions won exemptions from AB5, largely because they typically set their own prices and negotiate directly with their customers. They include doctors, dentists, psychologists, insurance agents, stockbrokers, lawyers, accountants, engineers, direct sellers, real estate agents, hairstylists, commercial fishermen, travel agents and graphic designers.
- Canon, Gabrielle. "Why some on-demand drivers are fighting for – or against – California's gig economy bill". USA Today. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
- "Some sectors warn that AB 5 could hurt workers, raise prices". www.sfchronicle.com. 2019-09-05. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
- "Uber, Lyft propose $21 an hour minimum wage for drivers in California, but there's a catch". NBC News. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
- "California Senate passes bill to tighten 'gig' worker rule". Reuters. 2019-09-12. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
- "Uber defiant as gig workers on verge of becoming employees under AB 5". The Mercury News. 2019-09-11. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
- "Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising International, Inc., No. 17-16096 (9th Cir. 2019)". Justia.com. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
- Solish, Jonathan. "A Dark Day for Franchising: Ninth Circuit Reinstates its Misguided Vazquez Decision, Undermining the Franchise Business Model". The National Law Review. Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
- Employment Status Portal
- "California passes landmark gig economy workers' rights bill". The Guardian. 11 September 2019. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
- "Gig Workers Win in California". Gizmodo. 11 September 2019. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
- "California Passes Landmark Bill to Remake Gig Economy". The New York Times. 11 September 2019. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
- Marshall, Aarian (2020-11-10). "Who's Still Covered by California's Gig Worker Law? Uber and Lyft led a ballot measure that exempts them from AB 5. But millions of janitors, retail workers, and others are still covered by the statute". Wired. Archived from the original on 2020-11-14.
The gig worker law, known as Assembly Bill 5, was enacted last year. Even before last week’s election, lawmakers had exempted about 100 kinds of independent contractors, including doctors, dentists, lawyers, songwriters, hair stylists, architects, youth sports coaches, and some freelance writers, producers, and cartographers. Proposition 22 revokes the law for its intended targets—ride-hail and delivery drivers. ... Workers exempted in a new bill passed by the state legislature this year include certain kinds of publicists, those hosting short “master classes,” and certain kinds of graphic designers.
- Dillon, Liam (2019-09-11). "Sweeping bill on independent contractors passes California state Senate". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
Late Tuesday, separate legislation was introduced to allow a one-year delay for newspaper delivery drivers. The trade group representing California newspapers asked lawmakers to exclude delivery workers from being classified as employees, saying the move could further weaken the fiscal health of some publications. Management of the Los Angeles Times, as well as the paper’s editorial board, had supported that effort, and a full-page advertisement urging changes to the legislation was published in the newspaper on Tuesday.
- "What is California's New AB 5 Law and How Will it Affect the Gig Economy?". Dordulian Law Group. Retrieved 2020-01-24.
- Bollag, Sophia (November 13, 2019). "California's new gig economy law challenged in court by truck drivers". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved November 13, 2019.
- "Complaint for Violation of Federal Civil Rights Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Declaratory and Injunctive Relief" (PDF). Pacific Legal Foundation filing. December 17, 2019. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
- Flynn, Kerry (2019-12-19). "Publishers prepare for new California law that puts limits on freelance journalists". CNN. Archived from the original on 2019-12-27. Retrieved 2020-01-28.
Two organizations that represent freelancers—American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Press Photographers Association—sued the state of California on Tuesday, alleging that AB 5 violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Pacific Legal attorney Jim Manley, who is working for the plaintiff, told CNN Business that the main problem with AB 5 is it "treats journalists as second-class freelancers." "Under AB 5, writers of marketing materials, perhaps news releases, can freelance freely, but if they write articles about that same news release, they are subject to the 35-submission limit," Manley said.
- Fingas, Jon (December 30, 2019). "Uber and Postmates sue California over gig worker law". Engadget. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
- California gig economy bill: What AB 5 means for labor, Uber, Lyft
- Hertweck, Nate. "What California's New Gig Economy Labor Law Means For Music Makers". Recording Academy Advocacy & Public Policy Office. The Recording Academy. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
- Rawsom, Brendan. "California's new gig worker law is disrupting the music industry and threatening all performing arts". CalMatters. The News Project. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
- "After 40+ years of classical music concerts offered outside with family and friends, the Lake Tahoe Music Festival will call a wrap to our summer festival with two performances in August of 2020". Lake Tahoe Music Festival. Archived from the original on 29 February 2020. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
We now join many who also face increased uncertainty regarding employment costs and infrastructure needs associated with AB-5. So we will bring our festival to a close
- @LorenaSGonzalez (17 December 2019). "Those 200 freelance "jobs" SB Nation /Vox announced ending yesterday & replacing w/staff jobs are better described…" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Binion, Billy. "California Freelancers Sue To Stop Law That's Destroying Their Jobs. Pol Says Those 'Were Never Good Jobs' Anyway". Reason. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
- Hussain, Suhauna (December 17, 2019). "Vox Media cuts hundreds of freelance journalists as AB 5 changes loom". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2019-12-26. Retrieved 2020-01-28.
Vox Media will end contracts with about 200 people, including non-California freelancers who cover teams based in the state, and replace them with 20 new part-time and full-time staffers, according to a source familiar with the decision.
- California AB 5: Law to regulate the gig economy is a win for workers - Vox
- Campbell, Alexia Fernández (2019-05-30). "California is cracking down on the gig economy". Vox. Retrieved 2020-01-26.
- Said, Carolyn (2020-01-22). "Uber tests letting California drivers set own rates". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2020-01-22. Retrieved 2020-01-28.
Uber made some major changes this month ... by showing them destinations in advance and removing any penalties for rejecting rides... Essentially those drivers now are bidding against one another for riders. Uber passengers will see only the lowest proposed fare range. If that driver rejects their ride request, they could see a new, higher fare range, as Uber would then show the request to the next-cheapest driver.
- Feiner, Lauren (2020-05-05). "California AG and cities sue Uber and Lyft, alleging they misclassified workers as contractors". CNBC. Retrieved 2020-05-19.
- Peters, Jay (August 10, 2020). "Uber and Lyft ordered by California judge to classify drivers as employees". The Verge. Retrieved August 10, 2020.
- Siddiqui, Faiz (2020-08-10). "Uber and Lyft must make their drivers in California full employees, judge rules - Both companies plan to appeal Monday's ruling, arguing it would upend their business and adversely affect workers". The Washington Post.
- Baertlein, Lisa (2020-01-09). "California court says truckers exempt from 'gig worker' law". Reuters.