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Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court (Charles Lee)

Supreme Court of California

April 30, 2018

DYNAMEX OPERATIONS WEST, INC., Petitioner,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Respondent; CHARLES LEE et al., Real Parties in Interest.

          Superior Court Los Angeles County Super Ct. No. BC332016, Ct. App. 2/7 B249546 Michael L. Stern Judge.

          Littler Mendelson, Robert G. Hulteng, Damon M. Ott, Philip A. Simpkins; Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, Paul S. Cowie; DLA Piper and Ellen M. Bronchetti for Petitioner.

          Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, Andrew R. Livingston, Michael Weil, Lauri Damrell and Kathryn G. Mantoan for California Employment Law Council and Employers Group as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

          Horvitz & Levy, John A. Taylor, Jeremy B. Rosen, Felix Shafir and David W. Moreshead for Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America and California Chamber of Commerce as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

          No appearance for Respondent.

          Pope, Berger & Williams, Pope, Berger, Williams Reynolds, A. Mark Pope; Glancy Binkow & Goldberg, Glancy Prongay & Murray, Kevin F. Ruf; Boudreau Williams, Williams Iagmin and Jon R. Williams for Real Parties in Interest.

          Della Barnett, R. Erandi Zamora; Anthony Mischel; Cynthia L. Rice, William G. Hoerger and Jean H. Choi for California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, National Employment Law Project, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, La Raza Centro Legal, Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-ALC, The Impact Fund, Alexander Community Law Center, UCLA Center for Labor Research, Women's Employment Rights Clinic and Worksafe as Amici Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

          Duckworth Peters Lebowitz Olivier and Monique Olivier for California Employment Lawyers Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

          CANTIL-SAKAUYE, C. J.

         Under both California and federal law, the question whether an individual worker should properly be classified as an employee or, instead, as an independent contractor has considerable significance for workers, businesses, and the public generally.[1] On the one hand, if a worker should properly be classified as an employee, the hiring business bears the responsibility of paying federal Social Security and payroll taxes, unemployment insurance taxes and state employment taxes, providing worker's compensation insurance, and, most relevant for the present case, complying with numerous state and federal statutes and regulations governing the wages, hours, and working conditions of employees. The worker then obtains the protection of the applicable labor laws and regulations. On the other hand, if a worker should properly be classified as an independent contractor, the business does not bear any of those costs or responsibilities, the worker obtains none of the numerous labor law benefits, and the public may be required under applicable laws to assume additional financial burdens with respect to such workers and their families.

         Although in some circumstances classification as an independent contractor may be advantageous to workers as well as to businesses, the risk that workers who should be treated as employees may be improperly misclassified as independent contractors is significant in light of the potentially substantial economic incentives that a business may have in mischaracterizing some workers as independent contractors. Such incentives include the unfair competitive advantage the business may obtain over competitors that properly classify similar workers as employees and that thereby assume the fiscal and other responsibilities and burdens that an employer owes to its employees. In recent years, the relevant regulatory agencies of both the federal and state governments have declared that the misclassification of workers as independent contractors rather than employees is a very serious problem, depriving federal and state governments of billions of dollars in tax revenue and millions of workers of the labor law protections to which they are entitled.[2]

         The issue in this case relates to the resolution of the employee or independent contractor question in one specific context. Here we must decide what standard applies, under California law, in determining whether workers should be classified as employees or as independent contractors for purposes of California wage orders, which impose obligations relating to the minimum wages, maximum hours, and a limited number of very basic working conditions (such as minimally required meal and rest breaks) of California employees.[3]

         In the underlying lawsuit in this matter, two individual delivery drivers, suing on their own behalf and on behalf of a class of allegedly similarly situated drivers, filed a complaint against Dynamex Operations West, Inc. (Dynamex), a nationwide package and document delivery company, alleging that Dynamex had misclassified its delivery drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. The drivers claimed that Dynamex's alleged misclassification of its drivers as independent contractors led to Dynamex's violation of the provisions of Industrial Welfare Commission wage order No. 9, the applicable state wage order governing the transportation industry, as well as various sections of the Labor Code, and, as a result, that Dynamex had engaged in unfair and unlawful business practices under Business and Professions Code section 17200.

         Prior to 2004, Dynamex classified as employees drivers who allegedly performed similar pickup and delivery work as the current drivers perform. In 2004, however, Dynamex adopted a new policy and contractual arrangement under which all drivers are considered independent contractors rather than employees. Dynamex maintains that, in light of the current contractual arrangement, the drivers are properly classified as independent contractors.

         After an earlier round of litigation in which the trial court's initial order denying class certification was reversed by the Court of Appeal (Lee v. Dynamex, Inc. (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 1325), the trial court ultimately certified a class action embodying a class of Dynamex drivers who, during a pay period, did not themselves employ other drivers and did not do delivery work for other delivery businesses or for the drivers' own personal customers. In finding that the relevant common legal and factual issues relating to the proper classification of the drivers as employees or as independent contractors predominated over potential individual issues, the trial court's certification order relied upon the three alternative definitions of “employ” and “employer” set forth in the applicable wage order as discussed in this court's then-recently decided opinion in Martinez v. Combs (2010) 49 Cal.4th 35, 64 (Martinez). As described more fully below, Martinez held that “[t]o employ... under the [wage order], has three alternative definitions. It means: (a) to exercise control over the wages, hours, or working conditions, or (b) to suffer or permit to work, or (c) to engage, thereby creating a common law employment relationship.” (49 Cal.4th at p. 64.) The trial court rejected Dynamex's contention that in the wage order context, as in most other contexts, the multifactor standard set forth in this court's seminal decision in S. G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations (1989) 48 Cal.3d 341 (Borello) is the only appropriate standard under California law for distinguishing employees and independent contractors.

         In response to the trial court's denial of Dynamex's subsequent motion to decertify the class, Dynamex filed the current writ proceeding in the Court of Appeal, maintaining that two of the alternative wage order definitions of “employ” relied upon by the trial court do not apply to the employee or independent contractor issue. Dynamex contended, instead, that those wage order definitions are relevant only to the distinct joint employer question that was directly presented in this court's decision in Martinez - namely whether, when a worker is an admitted employee of a primary employer, another business or entity that has some relationship with the primary employer should properly be considered a joint employer of the worker and therefore also responsible, along with the primary employer, for the obligations imposed by the wage order.

         The Court of Appeal rejected Dynamex's contention, concluding that neither the provisions of the wage order itself nor this court's decision in Martinez supported the argument that the wage order's definitions of “employ” and “employer” are limited to the joint employer context and are not applicable in determining whether a worker is a covered employee, rather than an excluded independent contractor, for purposes of the obligations imposed by the wage order. The Court of Appeal concluded that the wage order definitions discussed in Martinez are applicable to the employee or independent contractor question with respect to obligations arising out of the wage order. The Court of Appeal upheld the trial court's class certification order with respect to all of plaintiffs' claims that are based on alleged violations of the wage order.

         At the same time, the Court of Appeal concluded that insofar as the causes of action in the complaint seek reimbursement for business expenses such as fuel and tolls that are not governed by the wage order and are obtainable only under section 2802 of the Labor Code, [4] the Borello standard is the applicable standard for determining whether a worker is properly considered an employee or an independent contractor. With respect to plaintiffs' non-wage-order claim under section 2802, the Court of Appeal remanded the matter to the trial court to reconsider its class certification of that claim pursuant to a proper application of the Borello standard as further explicated in this court's decision in Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc. (2014) 59 Cal.4th 522 (Ayala).

         Dynamex filed a petition for review in this court, challenging only the Court of Appeal's conclusion that the wage order definitions of “employ” and “employer” discussed in Martinez are applicable to the question whether a worker is properly considered an employee or an independent contractor for purposes of the obligations imposed by an applicable wage order. We granted review to consider that issue.[5]

         For the reasons discussed below, we agree with the Court of Appeal that the trial court did not err in concluding that the “suffer or permit to work” definition of “employ” contained in the wage order may be relied upon in evaluating whether a worker is an employee or, instead, an independent contractor for purposes of the obligations imposed by the wage order. As explained, in light of its history and purpose, we conclude that the wage order's suffer or permit to work definition must be interpreted broadly to treat as “employees, ” and thereby provide the wage order's protection to, all workers who would ordinarily be viewed as working in the hiring business. At the same time, we conclude that the suffer or permit to work definition is a term of art that cannot be interpreted literally in a manner that would encompass within the employee category the type of individual workers, like independent plumbers or electricians, who have traditionally been viewed as genuine independent contractors who are working only in their own independent business.

         For the reasons explained hereafter, we conclude that in determining whether, under the suffer or permit to work definition, a worker is properly considered the type of independent contractor to whom the wage order does not apply, it is appropriate to look to a standard, commonly referred to as the “ABC” test, that is utilized in other jurisdictions in a variety of contexts to distinguish employees from independent contractors. Under this test, a worker is properly considered an independent contractor to whom a wage order does not apply only if the hiring entity establishes: (A) that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact; (B) that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity's business; and (C) that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.

         Although, as we shall see, it appears from the class certification order that the trial court may have interpreted the wage order's suffer or permit to work standard too literally, we conclude that on the facts disclosed by the record, the trial court's certification order is nonetheless correct as a matter of law under a proper understanding of the suffer or permit to work standard and should be upheld.

         Accordingly, we conclude that the judgment of the Court of Appeal should be affirmed.

         I. Facts and Proceedings Below

         We summarize the facts as set forth in the prior Court of Appeal opinions in this matter, supplemented by additional facts set forth in the record.

         Dynamex is a nationwide same-day courier and delivery service that operates a number of business centers in California. Dynamex offers on-demand, same-day pickup and delivery services to the public generally and also has a number of large business customers - including Office Depot and Home Depot - for whom it delivers purchased goods and picks up returns on a regular basis. Prior to 2004, Dynamex classified its California drivers as employees and compensated them pursuant to this state's wage and hour laws. In 2004, Dynamex converted all of its drivers to independent contractors after management concluded that such a conversion would generate economic savings for the company. Under the current policy, all drivers are treated as independent contractors and are required to provide their own vehicles and pay for all of their transportation expenses, including fuel, tolls, vehicle maintenance, and vehicle liability insurance, as well as all taxes and workers' compensation insurance.

         Dynamex obtains its own customers and sets the rates to be charged to those customers for its delivery services. It also negotiates the amount to be paid to drivers on an individual basis. For drivers who are assigned to a dedicated fleet or scheduled route by Dynamex, drivers are paid either a flat fee or an amount based on a percentage of the delivery fee Dynamex receives from the customer. For those who deliver on-demand, drivers are generally paid either a percentage of the delivery fee paid by the customer on a per delivery basis or a flat fee basis per item delivered.

         Drivers are generally free to set their own schedule but must notify Dynamex of the days they intend to work for Dynamex. Drivers performing on-demand work are required to obtain and pay for a Nextel cellular telephone through which the drivers maintain contact with Dynamex. On-demand drivers are assigned deliveries by Dynamex dispatchers at Dynamex's sole discretion; drivers have no guarantee of the number or type of deliveries they will be offered. Although drivers are not required to make all of the deliveries they are assigned, they must promptly notify Dynamex if they intend to reject an offered delivery so that Dynamex can quickly contact another driver; drivers are liable for any loss Dynamex incurs if they fail to do so. Drivers make pickups and deliveries using their own vehicles, but are generally expected to wear Dynamex shirts and badges when making deliveries for Dynamex, and, pursuant to Dynamex's agreement with some customers, drivers are sometimes required to attach Dynamex and/or the customer's decals to their vehicles when making deliveries for the customer. Drivers purchase Dynamex shirts and other Dynamex items with their own funds.[6]

         In the absence of any special arrangement between Dynamex and a customer, drivers are generally free to choose the sequence in which they will make deliveries and the routes they will take, but are required to complete all assigned deliveries on the day of assignment. If a customer requests, however, drivers must comply with a customer's requirements regarding delivery times and sequence of stops.

         Drivers hired by Dynamex are permitted to hire other persons to make deliveries assigned by Dynamex. Further, when they are not making pickups or deliveries for Dynamex, drivers are permitted to make deliveries for another delivery company, including the driver's own personal delivery business. Drivers are prohibited, however, from diverting any delivery order received through or on behalf of Dynamex to a competitive delivery service.

         Drivers are ordinarily hired for an indefinite period of time but Dynamex retains the authority to terminate its agreement with any driver without cause, on three days' notice. And, as noted, Dynamex reserves the right, throughout the contract period, to control the number and nature of deliveries that it offers to its on-demand drivers.

         In January 2005, Charles Lee - the sole named plaintiff in the original complaint in the underlying action - entered into a written independent contractor agreement with Dynamex to provide delivery services for Dynamex. According to Dynamex, Lee performed on-demand delivery services for Dynamex for a total of 15 days and never performed delivery service for any company other than Dynamex. On April 15, 2005, three months after leaving his work at Dynamex, Lee filed this lawsuit on his own behalf and on behalf of similarly situated Dynamex drivers.

         In essence, the underlying action rests on the claim that, since December 2004, Dynamex drivers have performed essentially the same tasks in the same manner as when its drivers were classified as employees, but Dynamex has improperly failed to comply with the requirements imposed by the Labor Code and wage orders for employees with respect to such drivers. The complaint alleges five causes of action arising from Dynamex's alleged misclassification of employees as independent contractors: two counts of unfair and unlawful business practices in violation of Business and Professions Code section 17200, and three counts of Labor Code violations based on Dynamex's failure to pay overtime compensation, to properly provide itemized wage statements, and to compensate the drivers for business expenses.

         The trial court's initial order denying class certification was reversed by the Court of Appeal based on the trial court's failure to compel Dynamex to provide contact information for potential putative class members that would enable plaintiffs to establish the necessary elements for class certification. (See Lee v. Dynamex, supra, 166 Cal.App.4th 1325, 1336-1338.) After the trial court permitted plaintiffs to file a first amended complaint adding Pedro Chevez (a former Dynamex dedicated fleet driver) as a second named plaintiff and the parties stipulated to the filing of a second amended complaint (the current operative complaint), the parties agreed to send questionnaires to all putative class members seeking information that would be relevant to potential class membership.

         Based on the responses on the questionnaires that were returned by current or former Dynamex drivers, plaintiffs moved for certification of a revised class of Dynamex drivers. As ultimately modified by the trial court, the proposed class includes those individuals (1) who were classified as independent contractors and performed pickup or delivery service for Dynamex between April 15, 2001 and the date of the certification order, (2) who used their personally owned or leased vehicles weighing less than 26, 000 pounds, and (3) who had returned questionnaires which the court deemed timely and complete. The proposed class explicitly excluded, however, drivers for any pay period in which the driver had provided services to Dynamex either as an employee or subcontractor of another person or entity or through the driver's own employees or subcontractors (except for substitute drivers who provided services during vacation, illness, or other time off). Also excluded were drivers who provided services concurrently for Dynamex and for another delivery company that did not have a relationship with Dynamex or for the driver's own personal delivery customers. Thus, as narrowed by these exclusions, the class consisted only of individual Dynamex drivers who had returned complete and timely questionnaires and who personally performed delivery services for Dynamex but did not employ other drivers or perform delivery services for another delivery company or for the driver's own delivery business. The trial court's certification order states that 278 drivers returned questionnaires and that from the questionnaire responses it appears that at least 184 drivers fall within the proposed class.

         On May 11, 2011, the trial court, in a 26-page order, granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification. The validity of that order is at issue in the present proceeding.

         After determining that the proposed class satisfied the prerequisites of ascertainability, numerosity, typicality, and adequacy of class representatives and counsel required for class certification, the trial court turned to the question of commonality - that is, whether common issues predominate over individual issues. Because of its significance to our subsequent legal analysis, we discuss this aspect of the trial court's certification order in some detail.

         The trial court began its discussion of the commonality requirement by observing that “ ‘[t]he ultimate question in every [purported class action] is whether, given an ascertainable class, the issues which may be jointly tried, when compared with those requiring separate adjudication, are so numerous or substantial that the maintenance of a class action would be advantageous to the judicial process and to the litigants.' ” The court noted that in examining whether common issues of law or fact predominate, a court must consider the legal theory on which plaintiffs' claim is based and the relevant facts that bear on that legal theory. The court explained that in this case all of plaintiffs' causes of action rest on the contention that Dynamex misclassified the drivers as independent contractors when they should have been classified as employees. Thus, the facts that are relevant to that legal claim necessarily relate to the appropriate legal standard or test that is applicable in determining whether a worker should be considered an employee or an independent contractor.

         The court then explained that the parties disagreed as to the proper legal standard that is applicable in determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor for purposes of plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiffs relied on this court's then-recent decision in Martinez, supra, 49 Cal.4th 35, maintaining that the standards or tests for employment set forth in Martinez are applicable in the present context, and that the standard for determining the employee or independent contractor question set forth in this court's decision in Borello, supra, 48 Cal.3d 341 is not the sole applicable standard. Dynamex, by contrast, took the position that the alternative definitions of “employ” and “employer” discussed in Martinez are applicable only in determining whether an entity that has a relationship with the primary employer of an admitted employee should be considered a joint employer of the employee, and not in deciding whether a worker is properly classified as an employee or an independent contractor. Dynamex asserted that even with respect to claims arising out of the obligations imposed by a wage order, the question of a worker's status as an employee or independent contractor must be decided solely by reference to the Borello standard.

         In its certification order, the trial court agreed with plaintiffs' position, relying on the fact that the Martinez decision “did not indicate that its analysis was in any way limited to situations involving questions of joint employment.” The court found that the Martinez decision represents “a redefinition of the employment relationship under a claim of unpaid wages as follows: ‘To employ, then, under the IWC's [Industrial Welfare Commission's] definition, has three alternative definitions. It means (a) to exercise control over the wages, hours or working conditions, (b) to suffer or permit to work, or (c) to engage, thereby creating a common law employment relationship.' ” (Quoting Martinez, supra, 49 Cal.4th at p. 64.) The trial court concluded that “[t]hese definitions must be considered when analyzing whether the class members are employees or independent contractors” and thereafter proceeded to discuss separately each of the three definitions or standards set forth in Martinez in determining whether common issues predominate for purposes of class certification.

         With regard to the “exercise control over wages, hours or working conditions” test, the trial court stated that “ ‘control over wages' means that a person or entity has the power or authority to negotiate and set an employee's rate of pay” and that “[w]hether or not Dynamex had the authority to negotiate each driver's rate of pay can be answered by looking at its policies with regard to hiring drivers.... [I]ndividual inquiry is not required to determine whether Dynamex exercises control over drivers' wages.”

         With regard to the suffer or permit to work test, the trial court stated in full: “An employee is suffered or permitted to work if the work was performed with the knowledge of the employer. [Citation.] This includes work that was performed that the employer knew or should have known about. [Citation.] Again, this is a matter that can be addressed by looking at Defendant's policy for entering into agreement with drivers. Defendant is only liable to those drivers with whom it entered into an agreement (i.e., knew were providing delivery services to Dynamex customers). This can be determined through records, and does not require individual analysis.”

         With regard to the common law employment relationship test referred to in Martinez, the trial court stated that this test refers to the multifactor standard set forth in Borello, supra, 48 Cal.3d 341. The trial court described the Borello test as involving the principal factor of “ ‘whether the person to whom services is rendered has the right to control the manner and means of accomplishing the result desired' ” as well as the following nine additional factors: “(1) right to discharge at will, without cause; (2) whether the one performing the services is engaged in a distinct occupation or business; (3) the kind of occupation, with reference to whether in the locality the work is usually done under the direction of the principal or by a specialist without supervision; (4) the skill required in the particular occupation; (5) whether the principal or the worker supplies the instrumentalities, tools, and the place of work for the person doing the work; (6) the length of time for which the services are to be performed; (7) method of payment, whether by the time or by the job; (8) whether or not the work is part of the regular business of the principal; and (9) whether or not the parties believe they are creating the relationship of employer-employee.” As the trial court observed, Borello explained that “ ‘the individual factors cannot be applied mechanically as separate tests; they are intertwined and their weight depends often on particular combinations.' ” (Borello, supra, 48 Cal.3d at p. 351.)

         The trial court then discussed the various Borello factors, beginning with whether the hiring business has the right to control work details. In analyzing this factor, the court stated: “A determination of control of the work details must look to ‘all meaningful aspects of the business relationship.' [Citation.] For a delivery service, those aspects include obtaining customer/customer service, prices charged for delivery, routes, delivery schedules and billing. Plaintiffs contend that these factors are all controlled by Dynamex because it obtains the customers, maintains a centralized call system, maintains a package tracking system, sets the prices for its services and customers are billed by Dynamex. This is not necessarily borne out by the evidence. Defendants' [supervising officer], Mr. Pople, [7] testified that the drivers solicit new customers. [Citation.] There is also evidence that customer service is handled by some of the drivers, depending on the customer's relationship to that driver. [Citation.] Finally, defendant does not necessarily control the drivers' delivery schedules, as a number of drivers state that their only obligation is to complete the deliveries by the end of the business day. [Citation.] The degree to which Dynamex controls the details of the work varies according to different circumstances, including the particular driver or customer that is involved. Determining whether Dynamex controls the details of the business, therefore, does not appear susceptible to common proof.”

         With regard to the right to discharge factor, the trial court stated: “[T]he right to discharge at will, without cause, is an important consideration. Defendant's [supervising officer] testified that Dynamex maintains the right to discharge the drivers at will. [Citation.] This does not appear to vary from driver to driver. So it is a classwide factor, which is particularly relevant to demonstrating the existence of an employer-employee relationship.”

         With regard to the “distinct occupation or business” factor, the trial court stated: “A distinct business relates to whether the drivers have the opportunity for profit and loss. [Citation.] Plaintiffs contend that the drivers have no opportunity for profit or loss because they are charged according to standardized rate tables. This may be a misrepresentation of defendants' evidence. Defendant['s supervising officer] testified that it tries to standardize the rates paid to on-demand drivers, however, drivers enter into different compensation arrangements. [Citations.] The opportunity for profit or loss depends on the nature of the agreement negotiated between Dynamex and the particular driver. Each arrangement would have to be reviewed to determine the extent of the driver's opportunity for profit and loss.”

         With regard to the “who supplies instrumentalities” factor, the court stated: “Defendant admitted that the drivers had to provide the instrumentalities of their work and that this was a classwide policy. This factor is subject to common inquiry.”

         With regard to the duration of service factor, the court stated: “Defendants concede that the drivers are at-will. [This] [f]actor is also subject to common inquiry.”

         With regard to the method of payment factor, the court stated: “Defendants identify different payment scenarios: (a) percentage of the fee Dynamex charges its customer for each delivery performed; (b) flat rate per day, regardless of the number of packages delivered; (c) set amount per package, regardless of the size or type of package; (d) flat fee to be available to provide delivery service regardless of whether the Driver's services are used; or (e) a combination of these payment types. [Citation.] These factors vary from driver to driver and raise individualized questions.”

         Finally, with regard to the “parties' belief regarding the nature of relationship” factor, the court noted that “this factor is given less weight by courts” and stated “[a]ll the drivers signed agreements stating that they were independent contractors. The drivers' belief could reasonably be demonstrated through this classwide agreement.”

         The court then summarized its conclusion with regard to the Borello standard: “Thus, most of the secondary factors are subject to common proof and do not require individualized inquiry of the class members. But the main factor in determining whether an employment agreement exists - control of the details - does require individualized inquiries due to the fact that there is no indication of a classwide policy that only defendants obtain new customers, only the defendants provide customer service and create the delivery schedules.”

         With respect to the entire question of commonality, however, the trial court concluded: “Common questions predominate the inquiry into whether an employment relationship exists between Dynamex and the drivers. The first two alternative definitions of ‘employer' can both be demonstrated through common proof, even if the common law test requires individualized inquiries.”

         Having found that common issues predominate, the trial court went on to conclude that “[a] class action is a superior means of conducting this litigation.” The court stated in this regard: “Given that there is evidence from Plaintiffs that common questions predominate the inquiry into [the] employment relationship[, ] managing this as a class action with respect to those claims will be feasible. There appears to be no litigation by individual class members, indicating that they have little interest in personally controlling their claims. Finally, consolidating all the claims before a single court would be desirable since it would allow for consistent rulings with respect to all the class members' claims.”

         On the basis of its foregoing determinations, the trial court granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification.

         In December 2012, Dynamex renewed its motion to decertify the class action that the trial court had certified in May 2011. Dynamex relied upon intervening Court of Appeal decisions assertedly demonstrating that the trial court had erred in relying upon the wage order's alternative definitions of employment, as set forth in Martinez. The trial court denied the renewed motion to decertify the class.

         In June 2013, Dynamex filed a petition for writ of mandate in the Court of Appeal, challenging the trial court's denial of its motion to decertify the class. In response, plaintiffs, while disagreeing with Dynamex's claim that the trial court had erred, urged the Court of Appeal to issue an order to show cause and resolve the issues presented in the writ proceeding. The Court of Appeal issued an order to show cause in order to determine whether the trial court erred in certifying the underlying class action under the wage order definitions of “employ” and “employer” discussed in Martinez.

         After briefing and argument, the Court of Appeal denied the petition in part and granted the petition in part. The appellate court concluded that the trial court properly relied on the alternative definitions of the employment relationship set forth in the wage order when assessing those claims in the complaint that fall within the scope of the applicable wage order, and it denied the writ petition with respect to those claims. With respect to those claims that fall outside the scope of the applicable wage order, however, the Court of Appeal concluded that the Borello standard applied in determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, and it granted the writ to permit the trial court to reevaluate its class certification order in light of this court's intervening decision in Ayala, supra, 59 Cal.4th 522, which clarified the proper application of the Borello standard.

         As already noted, Dynamex's petition for review challenged only the Court of Appeal's conclusion that the trial court properly determined that the wage order's definitions of “employ” and “employer” may be relied upon in determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor for purposes of the obligations imposed by the wage order. We granted the petition for review to consider that question.

         II. Relevant Wage Order Provisions

         We begin with a brief review of the relevant provisions of the wage order that applies to the transportation industry. (See Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11090.)

         In describing its scope, the transportation wage order initially provides in subdivision 1: “This order shall apply to all persons employed in the transportation industry, whether paid on a time, piece rate, commission, or other basis, ” except for persons employed in administrative, executive, or professional capacities, who are exempt from most of the wage order's provisions. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11090, subd. 1.)[8]

         Subdivision 2 of the order, which sets forth the definitions of terms as used in the order, contains the following relevant definitions:

         “(D) ‘Employ' means to engage, suffer, or permit to work.

         “(E) ‘Employee' means any person employed by an employer.

         “(F) ‘Employer' means any person as defined in Section 18 of the Labor Code, who directly or indirectly, or through an agent or any other person, employs or exercises control over the wages, hours, or working conditions of any person.” (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11090, subd. 2(D)-(F).)[9]

         Thereafter, the additional substantive provisions of the wage order that establish protections for workers or impose obligations on hiring entities relating to minimum wages, maximum hours, and specified basic working conditions (such as meal and rest breaks) are, by their terms, made applicable to “employees” or “employers.” (See, e.g., Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11090, subds. 3 [Hours and Days of Work], 4 [Minimum Wages], 7 [Records], 11 [Meal Periods], 12 [Rest Periods].)

         Subdivision 2 of the wage order does not contain a definition of the term “independent contractor, ” and the wage order contains no other provision that otherwise specifically addresses the potential distinction between workers who are employees covered by the terms of the wage order and workers who ...


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