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U.S. Supreme Court may review California wage disputes

On Behalf of | Nov 30, 2021 | Wage & Hour Laws

Federal laws can affect wage and employment legal protections for California’s transportation workers. The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing appeals involving truckers who want exceptions from laws making it difficult to defend their independent contractor status and an airline’s efforts to fight the state’s wage and hour laws.

In Nov., the Court asked the U.S. Solicitor General to provide opinions on these cases. These could help determine when federal law overrides California laws governing transportation workers’ rights.

Trucking case

The California Trucking Association asked for the Supreme Court’s review of a ruling from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. That court ruled that the Federal Authorization Act did not supersede Assembly Bill 5, the state’s worker status law.

A.B.5 is based upon a 2018 California state Supreme Court ruling. It requires employers in California to use a three-part ABC test to determine whether a worker is an employee entitled to employment benefits and protections from wage and hour laws and other legal protections or an independent contractor who is not afforded these rights.

The Ninth Circuit ruled that federal law did not override A.B.5 because California law did not cover motor carrier prices, routes, or services.

Industry groups filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for its review. They argued that recent court rulings in California revealed that federal appeals courts have issued different rulings on this issue. The Supreme Court refused to hear a similar appeal earlier this year.

The federal First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Federal Aviation Administration Act overrides Massachusetts independent contractor law. However, the Third and Seventh Circuit courts held that federal law did not prohibit similar New Jersey and Illinois laws.

Airline cases

Alaska Airlines and Virgin America also appealed a Ninth Circuit ruling which threw out more than $25 million of a $$77 million class action judgment against the airlines. However, that court rejected the airline’s arguments that the Airline Deregulation Act superseded California’s meal-and-rest break laws.

The airlines claim that the appeals court created an overly restrictive test for determining whether federal laws overrode state law and binds airlines to specific prices, routes, or service. They argued that this will force airlines to comply with many different state requirements for meal and rest break which will increase prices for passengers.

California argued that its meal-and-rest break requirements are sufficiently flexible and do not interfere with federal regulations over carriers. California’s general employment laws that do not govern a carrier’s prices, routes or services are not preempted because they impose costs or impact business decisions.

These laws may be complicated. Attorneys can assist workers pursuing their employment rights.