Kairy v. SuperShuttle Int’l

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: 11-03-2011
  • Case #: 10-16150
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Tashima for the Court; Circuit Judges B. Fletcher and Reinhardt
  • Full Text Opinion

The district court’s employee status determination would not interfere or frustrate the regulatory authority of the California Public Utilities Commission over passenger stage corporations because policy determinations regarding employment status made by the PUC are not synonymous with California state law.

Current and former “franchisee” shuttle van drivers filed a punitive class action against SuperShuttle, a passenger state corporation, alleging they were misclassified as “independent contractors” when they should have been classified as “employees.” The drivers further alleged that because of this misclassification, they were deprived of the protections provided to employees under California labor law. SuperShuttle moved to dismiss the case arguing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because § 1759 of the Public Utilities Code limits the judicial review of decisions by the Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”), and the PUC had already formulated regulation for passenger stage corporation’s employee status. The district court granted the motion. The Ninth Circuit granted Plaintiff’s petition for interlocutory order. The Ninth Circuit applied the California Supreme Court’s Covalt test to address tension between the Public Utilities Code limiting judicial review of the PUC, and § 2160 of the Code that permits private suits against public utilities for violations of state law. The Court held that the requirements of the PUC’s policy are not synonymous with the test used by the California courts to determine employment status, and district court would be making a distinct inquiry from the one that would be made by the PUC in a regulatory proceeding. Therefore the courts actions would not interfere with the jurisdiction of the Public Utility Commission as forbidden by § 1759. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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