High court declines to take up objections to California law on treating truckers as employees

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday by trucking companies seeking to exempt tens of thousands of truckers from California labor law, a potential first step — though not the final step — toward classifying them as employees rather than independent contractors.

At issue is whether drivers who own their trucks, and contract with companies to carry cargo, are employees with the right to minimum wages, overtime pay and other benefits under state law, or independent contractors whose rights are limited by their contracts. Voter approval last November of Proposition 22, sponsored by ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft, allowed those companies to classify their drivers as contractors, but did not apply to the truckers.

The Supreme Court, without comment, denied review Monday of trucking companies’ appeal of a November 2020 ruling by a California appellate court that said state law, not federal law, determines the employment status of about 70,000 truck owner-operators. Under California law, workers in the same business as the company that hired them are considered employees rather than contractors.

The court’s refusal to take up the case provided a possible window into how the high court might view ongoing battles in the hotly debated field of worker classification.

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