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On March 12, 2020, John Rogers filed a putative class action in the Superior Court of the City and County of San Francisco alleging that Lyft misclassified its drivers as independent contractors, rather than as employees. The complaint asserted a single claim for failure to provide paid sick leave under Labor Code section 246. He then filed an ex parte application for an emergency preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin Lyft from classifying its drivers as independent contractors.

The hearing on the ex parte application was set for March 19, 2020. However, on that day, Lyft removed the case to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)). Plaintiffs submitted their emergency preliminary injunction request to the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California that same day. Lyft then filed a motion in the district court seeking to compel individual arbitration of Rogers’ claims.

The district court granted in part and denied in part Lyft’s motion to compel arbitration. (Rogers v. Lyft, Inc. (2020) 452 F.Supp. 3d 904, 909)  Finally, the court determined that it lacked jurisdiction as to plaintiffs’ claim for public injunctive relief (id. at p. 919), remanding the case back to the superior court to resolve whether the claim actually sought a private injunction, which would be subject to arbitration, or a public injunction, which would be exempt from arbitration.

Upon remand, plaintiffs filed another ex parte application for an emergency preliminary public injunction in the superior court, seeking to enjoin Lyft from “misclassifying its drivers in California as independent contractors and thereby denying these workers their rights under the Labor Code” and under two municipal ordinances pertaining to sick leave.

On remand the superior court granted Lyft’s motion to compel arbitration, and denied the plaintiff’s request for an injunction after concluding that the request was for a public injunction and that a denial of the injunction would not cause plaintiffs to suffer irreparable harm. Two days later, plaintiffs filed their notice of appeal of both of these rulings. The California Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of both issues in the unpublished case of Rogers v Lyft – A160182 (July 2022).

While this appeal was pending, Proposition 22 passed on November 3, 2020, abrogating Assembly Bill No. 5. In doing so, Proposition 22 declared “app-based drivers” to be independent contractors – not employees – if the rideshare company (in this case, Lyft) provides those drivers with specific wage and hour protections. (See Bus. & Prof. Code. §§ 7451, 7453.) Proposition 22 took effect on December 16, 2020.

Proposition 22 was declared unconstitutional by a different trial court judge last year, but an appeal is pending.

In their opening brief, plaintiffs purport to appeal from the superior court’s “grant of Lyft’s Petition to Compel Arbitration,” which they assert “is appealable pursuant to [Code of Civil Procedure] section 1294 [subdivision](a).” The Court of appeal said that “this assertion is manifestly incorrect.”

Civil Code of Procedure section 1294, subdivision (a) provides: “An aggrieved party may appeal from . . . [a]n order dismissing or denyinga petition to compel arbitration.” (Italics added.) Here, the superior court granted Lyft’s petition to compel arbitration.

In any event, in their reply brief plaintiffs change course, expressly stating that they are not appealing from the order compelling arbitration. Accordingly, to the extent plaintiffs purport to appeal from the superior court’s order granting the motion to compel arbitration, the appeal on this issue was therefore dismissed.

In their opening brief, plaintiffs expressly waive any argument as to “whether an injunction remains appropriate following the passage of Proposition 22,” acknowledging that “a decision on the applicability of Proposition 22 would need to be addressed by the Superior Court in the first instance.” However, they assert that this case “presents a live case and controversy” because Lyft drivers would have received paid sick leave during the COVID-19 pandemic if the injunction had issued, and a reversal here would entitle them to this incidental relief. On this basis, they contend that they “still have a live claim for incidental relief.” Alternatively, they argue that this appeal should be heard because it “presents an important question of state law.”

Lyft contends that the only remaining issue in this appeal, the denial of plaintiffs’ request for an emergency preliminary public injunction ordering Lyft to reclassify its drivers as employees, should be dismissed as moot because plaintiffs “have expressly abandoned the preliminary injunction request that is the entire basis for this interlocutory appeal.”

The court of appeal agreed with Lyft that the appeal from the denial of the emergency preliminary injunction is moot and should be dismissed.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney for the Lyft drivers, said they are “disappointed in the decision and are considering our options, including petitioning the California Supreme Court for review.”