California Assembly Bill 5 or AB 5 is a California law which limits the use of classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees by companies in the state. Employees are entitled to greater labor protections, such as minimum wage laws, sick leave, and unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits, which do not apply to independent contractors. Concerns over employee mis-classification, especially in the gig economy, drove support for the bill.
It was introduced by California assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and endorsed by Governor Gavin Newsom. It was approved by the California State Senate 29-11 on a party-line vote, by the Assembly by 56-15, and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in September 2019. It will take effect January 1, 2020.
The law codifies a stricter set of requirements laid out in a California Supreme Court decision regarding the classification of employees. The bill was supported by many labor leaders, unions, ride-share driver groups, and state Democrats. It was opposed by state Republicans, the California Chamber of Commerce, and gig economy companies Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, which pledged to spend $30 million each on a 2020 ballot initiative to reverse AB 5. After its passage in the legislature, Uber and Lyft both said they planned to keep drivers classified as contractors, saying they could pass the stricter test.
On April 30, 2018, the Supreme Court of California ruled in Dynamex to impose stricter requirements for employee classification. It created a 3-part test to determine whether an employee could be classified as a contractor rather than an employee, commonly known as the “ABC” test, replacing a previous 11-point standard set in Borello in 1989 (the Borello test).
The bill, introduced in December 2018, places the ruling on a statutory footing by inserting §2750.3 to the California Labor Code, and, as a general rule, puts the burden of proof on employers to show that a worker is properly classified as an independent contractor where all three of the following conditions are met-
- 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 such work and in fact
- the worker per