A recent WCAB panel decision highlights some of the issues surrounding workers’ comp claims against the gig-worker platform rideshare companies.
The case, Murguia v. Lyft, can be seen at the bottom of this post.
The 2018 California Supreme Court decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court adopted the ABC test to determine employment in a wage and hour context. In 2019 the legislature enacted AB5, a codification of the ABC test which extended the reach of the ABC test beyond wage and hour cases employment issues to workers’ comp, unemployment and other California labor laws.
But there was still apparently little if any reported workers’ comp litigation over the issue of whether California law required rideshare drivers to be covered as employees under California workers’ comp.
Then came the passage of Prop 22 which effectively exempts Lyft, Uber, Doordash and certain other gig-platform companies from the California system as long as they have a substitute schedule of benefits specified in the initiative.
But Prop 22 was declared unconstitutional in 2021 by an Alameda County Superior Court judge. That case (known as Castellanos et. al. v. State of California et al.) is currently on appeal and pending at the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District.
So we have a murky situation now. Does AB5 (and the ABC test) apply to rideshare drivers for purpose of determining if they are employees? Or will Prop 22 apply?
That brings us to Murguia.
In Murguia v. Lyft Inc., Gisela Murguia claimed 2022 injuries while allegedly employed by Lyft, Inc. in Culver City, California. Applicant Murguia served a subpoena duces tecum (a SDT) asking for records from Lyft, Inc and served the subpoena on Blue Star Claims Management. Lyft objected and contested a workers’ compensation judge’s order to meet and confer over the SDT.
Lyft claimed that there was no personal and subject matter jurisdiction to order a meet and confer order, contending that Murguia was an independent contractor, not an employee. Lyft filed a petition for removal.
The WCJ who had issued the meet and confer order (Van Nuys WCJ Dean Stringfellow) recommended that Lyft’s removal petition not be granted.The WCAB panel rejected Lyft’s petition for removal, adopting the recommendation filed by WCJ Stringfellow. That report noted that the WCAB does have jurisdiction to determine jurisdiction.
The Murguia panel decision states that:
“First of all, it must be noted that Proposition 22 was enacted as Bus. & Prof. Code sec. 4751. The statute was declared unconstitutional in Castellanos v. State of California (2021) 86 CCC 826. At the time of this writing this holding in Castellanos appears to be the present status of Bus. & Prof. Code sec. 4751 upon which Petitioner seems to rely.
However, neither the supposed implications of Proposition 22 nor the burden of proof imposed on the alleged employer under Cal. Lab code sec. 2775 in any way affects the jurisdiction of the Appeals Board to issue interim orders affecting discovery in an ongoing case.
“Secondly, Cal. Lab. Code sec. 3357 states:
“A person rendering service for another, other than as an independent contractor, or unless expressly excluded herein, is presumed to be an employee.” (emphasis added).
Hence any claim that Applicant is an independent contractor is a contested issue subject to the Board’s jurisdiction. This would be true regardless of the constitutional status of Proposition 22.”
Here is a pdf of Murguia v. Lyft:
Here is a link information on the status of the appeal in Castellanos:
Stay tuned. Obviously there will be further legal developments surrounding the application of Prop 22 and AB5 to California rideshare workers.