Amelia Sargent, partner, and Kenneth Trujillo-Jamison, senior associate, have filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of 13 organizations serving communities of color, in People of the State of California v. Uber Technologies, Inc. and Lyft, Inc. In the lawsuit, the State of California seeks a preliminary injunction to force Uber and Lyft to immediately classify their drivers as employees, rather than as independent contractors.
Willenken’s brief, filed in support of Uber and Lyft’s opposition to the motion for preliminary injunction, articulates why issuing the preliminary injunction would impose irreparable harm on workers and communities of color. The gig economy, Willenken explains, provides flexibility, opportunity, and a preferred lifestyle to many workers of color, while also providing critical services to communities of color, such as rideshare and delivery services.
Willenken argues that issuing the injunction sought by the State—particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—will dramatically reduce income-earning opportunities for workers of color and rideshare services in communities of color. People of color are, on average, more likely to contract and die from COVID-19 and are more likely to have lost their job as a result of the economic depression caused by the pandemic. Moreover, workers of color are less likely to be able to work from home, so the injunction, in reducing rideshare services, will relegate workers of color to other forms of transportation carrying greater risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
Willenken has expertise in the heavily litigated issue of whether gig economy workers should be classified as employees or independent contractors. Indeed, Willenken recently filed a brief in the California Supreme Court in Vazquez v. Jan-Pro Franchising Int’l, Inc., on a question certified by the Ninth Circuit regarding whether Dynamex v. Superior Court—the case in which the California Supreme Court adopted the ABC Test—should apply retroactively.