CTA lawsuit claims ABC test violates constitution

November 14, 2019

Mark Schremmer


As part of its lawsuit to derail a California Supreme Court decision regarding how workers are classified in the state, the California Trucking Association filed an amended complaint with the U.S. Southern District Court on Nov. 12.

The lawsuit, which lists California Attorney General Xavier Becerra among the named defendants, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against the employment test established by the California Supreme Court in 2018.

ABC test

In the 2018 Dynamex case, the state’s high court established the ABC test, which considers all workers to be employees unless the hiring business demonstrates that all of these factors are established:

A. 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. The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.

C. The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

This past September, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 5, which codifies the California Supreme Court’s decision. The law is not exclusive to the trucking industry.

The lawsuit

CTA originally filed its lawsuit in October 2018. This week, the trucking organization filed a second amended complaint in an attempt to prevent the application of AB5. CTA contends that the B criteria of the test spells the end of the owner-operator model in the state.

“AB5 threatens the livelihood of more than 70,000 independent truckers,” Shawn Yadon, the trucking group’s CEO, said in a news release. “The bill wrongfully restricts their ability to provide services as owner-operators and, therefore, runs afoul of federal law.”

CTA alleges in the lawsuit that the ABC test is preempted by the supremacy and commerce clauses in the U.S. Constitution and is in conflict with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act and the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994.

Teamsters response to CTA’s lawsuit

The Teamsters spoke out against CTA’s lawsuit, saying that blocking the ABC test would allow California trucking companies to continue to misclassify workers.

“For decades, companies like Lowe’s, Rio Tinto Mines, and Target have enjoyed unprecedented profitability and shareholder value off the backs of hard-working truck drivers who haul their imported cargo from our nation’s seaports to their warehouses,” Fred Potter, Teamsters vice president at large, said in a news release. “It’s no surprise that their trucking contractors are going to court to perpetuate a scheme – deemed illegal by multiple regulatory agencies and courts long before Assembly Bill 5 was introduced in the California Legislature – that has robbed typical drivers of tens of thousands of dollars a year to their misclassification as independent contractors.”

In June 2017, USA Today published a series of stories titled “Rigged” that looked into subcontracting schemes that exploit truckers at the California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The investigative report said some truckers were netting as little as $10 per day after leasing fees.

Outside of the trucking industry, such companies as Uber and Lyft also have opposed AB5.


Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.