Federal court panels unanimously decided that the restriction of freelancing journalists’ First Amendment rights in California does not violate their freedom to publish as independent contractors and work.
This is Assembly Bill (A.B.). 5. This is the well-known 2019 labor law. It imposes strict controls on who could be considered independent contractors or employees. This law codified a California Supreme Court 2018 ruling. Superior Court of Los Angeles: Dynamex Operations West Inc.This is the. That means that employees are considered employees until they pass what’s called an “ABC” test. This tests whether the workplace is actually in control of a worker and if he has done any work for that company entity. The state will consider him to be an employee if he has done so.
Let’s be very clear: a freelancer is someone who works for free. wantsThis test does not consider whether you are treated as an independent contractor. Although these rules could have a significant and adverse impact on someone’s ability to make a living, they don’t give him any say. This is part of the point. A.B. A.B.
Freelancers across all work streams were severely affected by the bill. The bill was designed specifically to push out Uber and Lyft for the heavily unionized taxi cartel. California voters voted in November to exempt the drivers. However, a judge overruled this ballot initiative.
A.B. Five initially set a limit on how many stories freelance journalists could publish in one outlet, while remaining independent contractors. For many freelancers, this was a devastating decision. The financial situation for media outlets is not ideal these days. Advertisers are continuing to migrate to the internet and freelancers were not able to get jobs as journalists.
American Society of Journalists and Authors and National Press Photographers Association filed suit, asserting that the restrictions restricted their freedom of speech and press rights as outlined in the First Amendment and therefore were unconstitutional.
The courts found the arguments insufficient and concluded instead that A.B. The courts rejected their arguments and ruled that A.B. 5 was a broad-reaching law which is generally applicable to all businesses in the state. It does not target journalists’ speech. According to courts, this case doesn’t involve the First Amendment.
A panel of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit ruled on October 6. All three of them agree that A.B. While 5 may severely limit freelance journalists’ ability to receive payment for their work, and make it difficult for media outlets to publish these stories, the First Amendment does not apply.
The statute is aimed at the employment relationship—a traditional sphere of state regulation. Further, the panel acknowledged that while the ABC classification could indeed have greater costs for hiring entities which may in turn mean less overall employment opportunities for some workers, this indirect effect on speech doesn’t necessarily raise to the level an Amendment violation.
It is both a disturbing and fascinating analysis. Many news stories don’t get written.
The interesting thing about this ruling is the fact that although the judges claim the decision applies across industries, the A.B. descriptions are not. 5, and another bill amending which occupations or industries were exempted, are remarkable for the complex adjustments made across different fields. Certain occupations are more restricted than others. There were new rules for freelance writers. Although the story limit has been lifted, freelance writers can no longer be substitutes for employees at the same volume of work and cannot work outside the company. This approach is penalizing in an area that is currently in dire financial condition.
A.B. 5 does not have a set of “generally applicable” rules applied across California companies and freelancers based on some overall sense of fairness, but rather the amount of influence and clout various organizations—particularly labor groups—have over the law’s crafting. The law was not amended until there was a lot of outrage over the devastating and predictable consequences that freelance contractors face in terms of being unable to earn a living while also losing their ability to find work.
It may be true that law’s destructive nature isn’t a First Amendment concern. However, it is a concern for all those who value freedom to associate with other people as they choose. The Supreme Court does not mention freedom of association as it is recognized in the First Amendment. Is it the right of an individual to choose whether or not he wishes to become an employee?