The next shot has been fired in the long-running misclassification dispute between plaintiff Raef Lawson and gig economy giant Grubhub, as the company filed its Answering Brief with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals late last night. As regular readers of this blog know, Lawson and Grubhub squared off in the nation’s first-ever gig economy misclassification trial in late 2017, leading to a victory for Grubhub in February 2018. Things took a turn for the worse in April 2018 when the California Supreme Court dropped a bombshell and changed the misclassification standard with its infamous Dynamex decision, which ushered in the notorious ABC test, and Lawson’s attorneys quickly pounced and argued that he should now be declared the victor given the new standard. Lawson filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and filed his opening brief in November 2018. Now, it’s Grubhub’s turn.
The first-ever trial on the gig economy misclassification to reach a judicial merits determination has now turned into the first-ever appeal on gig economy misclassification. And late Friday evening, the plaintiff seeking to overturn the ruling filed his opening appeals brief with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. We’ve covered the Lawson v. Grubhub decision in detail over the past year; if you want to refresh your memory, feel free to catch up by reading any of our posts. In sum, a federal trial court ruled in February 2018 that Grubhub correctly classified plaintiff Raef Lawson as an independent contractor and rejected his misclassification claim, but then the California Supreme Court changed the game a few months later by adopting the strict ABC test for misclassification in the now infamous Dynamex case. How will the Dynamex decision impact the Gurbhub appeal? We’re not sure, but we know how the plaintiff feels about it. We digested the 61-page appeals brief and can give you the three most important takeaways from the filing.
It’s impossible to ignore the reverberations that continue to shake the business landscape after the landmark April 30 Dynamex ruling introduced the notorious ABC test to the California gig economy industry. For those living under a rock the past few months, the ABC test adopted by the California Supreme Court now forces businesses to prove that each and every worker satisfies all three elements of the ABC test in order to properly classify them as independent contractors: (A) that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work; (B) that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and (C) that 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. Given the significant difficulty a gig economy business would have in meeting this test for each and every of its workers, it has caused a seismic shift in the way gig companies structure the relationship with their workers.