Workers Comp Zone


The California Supreme Court has declined to block implementation of Prop 22, the November 2020 voter-passed initiative which designates app-based drivers as independent contractors under a scheme set up by the initiative.

The challenge to the initiative was filed on January 12, 2021 with the California Supreme Court.

Filing the challenge were the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) and a handful of gig-workers. The petitioners in the case, known as Castellanos v. State of California, elected to file the case directly with the California Supreme Court rather than at a California Superior Court (i.e. trial court) level. A link to the filing, called an “Emergency Petition for Writ of Mandate and Request for Expedited Review”, can be found at the bottom of this post.

The petition was denied by the California Supreme Court, and there was no analysis or opinion written. The court’s website does reveal, however, that there were two votes to hear the petition. Justices Goodwin Liu and Mariano-Florentino Cuellar voted to hear the matter.

SEIU argued that Prop 22 unconstitutionally limits the California legislature’s plenary power to provide for a complete system of workers’ compensation. They note that Article XIV, section 4 of the California Constitution grants to the legislature the “plenary power, unlimited by any provision of this Constitution” to enforce a complete system of workers’ compensation.

The Petitioners also argued that:

• In defining specific areas of legislation as “amendments”, Prop 22 usurps the judiciary’s inherent authority to interpret the California constitution

• Prop 22 impermissibly restricts the legislature’s authority to enact legislation not addressed in the initiative

• Prop 22 violates the single subject-rule

So what next?

With the California Supreme Court refusing to intervene at this point, I would expect the petitioners to file a case in a California Superior Court, making their arguments there. Whether they prevail or lose at that level, I would expect appeals by either party. This is likely to be time consuming, and meanwhile Prop 22 would be operative unless a trial judge provides an injunction staying implementation of the “Protect App-Based Drivers and Services Act”.

We’ll follow the next moves in future posts.

Here is the link to the Petition for Mandate that SEIU filed with the California Supreme Court by the Olson Remcho law firm:

Julius Young