Ramifications of Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers could result in changes for California workers. The California Supreme Court unanimously affirmed a Court of Appeal decision that reversed the denial of class certification in the independent contractor misclassification case. Judge Werdegar, Justice Baxter and Justice Chin all concurred that the Court of Appeal correctly reversed the trial court decision that denied certification in the case of Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers. In the case, Newspaper delivery workers filed against a daily newspaper. They were classified as independent contractors and as such, were denied minimum wage payment, overtime pay, minimum rest and meal period premiums, as well as employer contributions toward Social Security.
The trial court held that there were too many individual inquiries necessary in order to determine how the various newspaper delivery workers handled their day to day operations, but the Supreme Court felt that the trial court missed the point of the case: whether a common law employer/employee relationship exists dependent upon the degree of the hirer’s right to define/control the relationship or how the end result is actually achieved. The Supreme Court further explained their decision by pointing out that while there was evidence of variation in work habits between newspaper carriers, which supports claims made by Antelope Valley’s position that they didn’t control their carriers’ work, this fact didn’t negate the actual question at hand. How much right does the employer (Antelope Valley) have to control what their carriers’ do?
This case reinforces the common proof method that turns to governing contracts: a common method used to determine the answer to the independent contractor vs. employee question. The Court has pointed out that at the certification stage, the form contract’s importance is not particularly in what it says, but in what degree of control it defines and whether it is uniform across the class.
Countless California workers are misclassified as independent contractors even though their employers retain control of their working conditions. If you are one of these California workers and you’d like to join with fellow workers to address the issue of misclassification claims, contact Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik. There’s precedence in the legal system that empowers you to raise your wage claim.