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California court dismisses lawsuit, citing FMCSA ruling on meal breaks

California court dismisses lawsuit, citing FMCSA ruling on meal breaks

A California court has dismissed a portion of a class-action lawsuit brought by a professional truck driver against the carrier he worked for claiming the company had failed to provide him with adequate meal and rest periods in accordance with California’s meal-and-rest-break-requirements.

The dismissal is the first application in a court case of a decision by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in December that federal rest-break laws supersede California’s meal-and-rest-break regulations and possibly portends a shift in the legal standing of the long-running issue.

On May 2, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed the portion of the suit, brought on in January 2016 by California-based driver Anthony Ayala against Chattanooga, Tennessee-based U.S. Xpress Inc., that U.S. Xpress did not provide Ayala with adequate meal and rest periods, per the California regulations. The suit further claimed that U.S. Express’ mileage-based pay system violates California’s minimum-wage laws. That portion of the suit is still pending.

U.S. District Judge George Wu granted U.S. Express’ request for dismissal on the grounds that, based on FMCSA’s decision, the court did not have the authority to review the case.

“The Secretary of Transportation’s authority to issue such determinations has been delegated to the FMCSA Administrator,” the court document states. “Judicial review of a pre-emption determination may only be heard by a circuit court.”

California state laws require employers to provide breaks for their employees for meals and rest. Employees working more than five hours in a day are entitled to receive a 30-minute meal break and, if work extends beyond 10 hours a day, they must receive an additional 30-minute break. Employees are also entitled to a 15-minute break every four hours. For years, interstate motor carriers have argued that these and other states’ laws should not apply to them because they are already governed by FMCSA’s Hours of Service regulations.

One of the favorite arguments by the carriers has been that it would be excessively burdensome for trucks driving cross-country to have to adhere to a “patchwork” of varying regulations every time they crossed state lines

Under federal HOS regulations, drivers are required to take a 30-minute break after eight hours. Part of the confusion is whether carriers should have to honor state regulations, federal regulations or both. It is possible that under some interpretations, drivers would be have to take two 30-minute breaks, along with two 15-minute breaks, in an 11-hour shift.

On December 21, 2018, the FMCSA, in response to petitions filed by the American Trucking Associations and the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association in September, determined that the California regulations had no safety benefit, were incompatible with federal regulations and caused an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is currently considering a suit filed in February by California Labor Commissioner Julie Su and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra seeking to have FMCSA’s decision reversed.

In the district court’s dismissal, the court indicated it did not accept an argument by the plaintiffs that the defendant’s request for partial dismissal should be dismissed until the Ninth Circuit reached a decision in its case.

The Trucker News Staff

The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.

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The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.
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