The California Supreme Court just declined to take up the petition filed by a group of app-based rideshare and delivery drivers to hold as unconstitutional the voter-approved ballot measure that ensured that app-based rideshare and delivery drivers could be classified as independent contractors rather than employees. On February 3, the California Supreme Court denied the petition filed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and a group of rideshare drivers seeking to strike down Proposition 22. The SEIU and the group of drivers argued the ballot measure was unconstitutional by putting illegal constraints on the ability of state lawmakers to empower drivers to organize, in violation of the California Constitution. About a month after the petition was filed, the state Supreme Court rejected their challenge in a short docket entry and without much explanation.
As to be expected, parties on both sides of the debate expressed opposite opinions about the court’s move. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Hector Castellanos, one of the rideshare drivers and the named plaintiff on the case, expressed the following: “We are disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear our case, but make no mistake: we are not deterred in our fight to win a livable wage and basic rights.” On the other hand, an Uber driver from Modesto, California expressed his thoughts on the state’s Supreme Court’s decision and his support of the voter-approved ballot measure by stating, “we’re thankful, but not surprised, that the California Supreme Court has rejected this meritless lawsuit. We’re hopeful this will send a strong signal to special interests to stop trying to undermine the will of voters who overwhelmingly stood with drivers to pass Proposition 22.”
What Does The Court’s Decision Mean?
The decision has two main takeaways. The first, and most important one, is that the state Supreme Court’s denial to hear the case was without prejudice, which means the SEIU could still seek to challenge Proposition 22 by refiling its case with a lower court. The second takeaway is that this decision to not hear the case strengthens the position of gig economy companies benefitting from the ballot measure.
What happens next?
While there haven’t been any other comments reported, it is possible that the SEIU and the group of drivers could continue to challenge Proposition 22 by starting again at the trial level. They could possibly bring the same arguments regarding their claims of inappropriate intrusion into lawmaking, the unconstitutional attempt to restrict amendments, and the argument that Proposition 22 addressed too many issues in a single ballot measure. However, it seems unlikely that state courts will find Proposition 22 unconstitutional, especially given that it passed in November with 58% support. Courts are likely to step away from this issue, reluctant to overturn the will of the voters and leaving it to lawmakers to address.
Of course, we will monitor the status of any litigation stemming from this decision and report back as developments warrant.