Federal Preemption of California’s Meal and Rest Laws for Truck Drivers Subject to Federal Regulations Applies Retroactively!
Published: December 15, 2022
In California, Wage Order 9-2001 applies to “all persons employed in the transportation industry,” including property-carrying commercial truck drivers. (Cal. Code Regs., Tit. 8, § 11090(1).) Under the order, an employee working more than five hours a day is entitled to a “meal period of not less than 30 minutes,” and an employee working more than 10 hours in a day is entitled to “a second meal period of not less than 30 minutes.” (Cal. Code Regs., Tit. 8, § 11090(11)(A),(B).). The Wage Order entitles employees to 10-minute rest breaks for every four hours worked throughout the day. (Cal. Code Regs., Tit. 8, § 11090(12)(A).)
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency within the Department of Transportation that imposes regulations on certain commercial drivers in interstate commerce, has different rules under their hours-of-service regulations and requires that except for certain “short-haul” drivers, a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle driver working more than eight hours must take at least one 30-minute break during the first eight hours, although the driver has flexibility as to when the break occurs. (49 C.F.R. § 395.3(a)(3)(ii).)
International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 2785 v. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Decision
In 2018, the FMCSA decided to preempt California’s meal and rest break rules with respect to drivers subject to the FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations. In International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 2785 v. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Ninth Circuit held that the agency’s decision was a lawful exercise of its power under the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984. (Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters, Local 2785 v. Fed. Motor Carrier Safety Admin. (9th Cir. 2021) 986 F.3d 841, 846.) However, the question remained as to whether the preemption decision barred plaintiffs from proceeding with lawsuits before the FMCSA decision was made.
Valiente v. Swift Transportation Co. of Arizona, LLC Decision
The court in Valiente v. Swift Transportation Co. of Arizona, LLC has answered that question. In Valiente, Plaintiffs were former hourly truck drivers who filed a class action lawsuit before the agency issued the preemption decision, alleging violations of various laws, including California’s meal and rest break rules. (Valiente v. Swift Transp. Co. of Ariz., LLC (9th Cir. Nov. 23, 2022, No. 21-55456) 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 32424, at *5.) The district court had held that in the wake of the FMCSA’s determination, it “ha[d] no authority to enforce the regulations upon which Plaintiffs’ meal and rest break claims rest.” (Valiente,at *5-6.)
In answering whether a change in law applies retroactively to a pending lawsuit, the 9th Circuit applied the retroactivity test set forth in Landgraf v. USI Film Products (1994) 511 U.S. 244, 263-264, 280, and found that because Congress intended for the FMCSA to have the power to halt enforcement of state laws and because the FMCSA intended for this particular preemption determination to apply to pending lawsuits, the FMCSA determination prohibits present enforcement of California’s meal and rest break rules regardless of when the underlying conduct occurred. (Valiente v. Swift Transp. Co. of Ariz., LLC, supra, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 32424, at *7-8.)
What this means for California employers is that drivers subject to the FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations cannot proceed with lawsuits seeking to enforce California’s meal and rest break rules.