Supreme Court Rejects Petition to Overturn Minimum Break Standards

Kevin Anderson Hours of Service, Regulations, Transportation

The Supreme Court decided against taking on Penske Logistics v. Dilts, a case from California involving state rules mandating breaks and meal times for truckers. Had the Supreme Court taken up the case and made a decision, it would have had far-reaching consequences on the trucking industry. That is why, the American Trucking Association, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and others became involved in the case, filing friend-of-the-court briefs to persuade the Court.

By choosing not to review the case and hand down a decision, the Court leaves the 9th Circuit decision on the case as law. Often times when the Court decides not to hear a case it can mean the justices don’t think this it is the right case for the issue, so they wait for another, or they think the lower court got it right, and leave it alone. Time will tell why the Court did not hear the case, but now it is up to the trucking industry to deal with the ramifications.

California’s Laws for Meal and Rest Breaks

It may not be surprising to learn that California has very worker-friendly labor laws. Among those laws are a requirement that employers provide a 30-minute meal break for employees who work more than five hours in a day. Employees working more than 10 hours a day are entitled to an additional 30-minute lunch break. Cal. Lab.Code § 512(a). Additionally, under California’s labor regulations, employers are required to provide employees in the transportation industry with 10 minutes of paid rest every four hours. Cal.Code Regs. tit. 8, § 11090(12)(A). The case rejected by the Supreme Court was over the legitimacy of these laws and rules.

Employees from a well known trucking company complained that they were not given the breaks and meal time required by California law. They filed a lawsuit as a class against their employer seeking to be compensated for lost time, and to be given the breaks and mealtimes that the law mandates. Of course the company disagreed because, in their mind, they are regulated by the rules and regulations of several federal agencies. Under the company’s view, the federal government has very specific rule regarding maximum driving times and rest periods regarding truckers, and therefore the California law does not apply to their industry, the trucking industry.

The Case Makes Its Way Through the System

The case by the employees was originally filed in state court, but it was removed to federal court. At the district court level the trucking company asked the court to dismiss the case because the state’s laws were preempted by the rules and regulations authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA). The district court agreed and dismissed the case. In its reasoning, the district court noted that the FAAAA prohibits a state from regulating issues of motor carriers related to prices, routes, or services. After receiving this bad news the employees appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

After hearing the case and looking at the law, the 9th Circuit reversed the lower court’s ruling and sent it back to be tried on its merits. While recognizing that the FAAAA does put limits on what a state can regulate, the 9th Circuit held that these particular laws do not directly involve prices, routes, or services. After handing down this decision, the trucking company appealed to the Supreme Court, but was denied a hearing. Now the law stands – at least until the Supreme Court takes on the next case.

At Anderson & Yamada we stay up to date on all the big decisions affecting the trucking industry. We are trucking industry lawyers ready and able to help your company navigate the constant changes of law, rules, and regulations. Contact us now so we can serve you.