A federal appeals court meeting in Pasadena Wednesday rejected a bid by groups representing journalists and photographers to revive a lawsuit arguing that California’s strict worker classification law violates freelancers’ First Amendment free-speech rights.
The lawsuit brought by the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Press Photographers Association challenging Assembly Bill 5 was dismissed by a Los Angeles federal judge last year.
The journalist groups argued that the 2019 law discriminates against freelancers by forcing them to become employees of their clients whether they desire such a working relationship or not, and interferes with their ability to earn a living as independent contractors.
During arguments before a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in June, an attorney representing the two groups argued that AB5 and subsequent amendments unreasonably blocked many freelance journalists from being treated as independent contractors based on the content of their speech, while exempting similar work performed for publicity or artistic purposes.
The appeals court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal, concluding that the worker classification laws “do not regulate speech but, rather, economic activity. We further conclude that the legislature’s occupational distinctions are rationally related to a legitimate state purpose.”