Under California law, an employer is required to provide employees a 30 minute meal break during a work period longer than five hours with some exceptions. Further, an employer is required to provide a second 30 minute meal break if an employee works more than 10 hours in a day. Also, under California law, employers are required to provide 10 minute rest periods for every four hours worked by an employee.
In 2013, truck drivers brought a class action suit against their employer in part for failing to provide the required meal and rest breaks under California law. In May 2013, the bench trial court awarded the truck drivers damages. The employer filed an appeal.
On appeal, their employer argued that the FAAAA (Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act) preempted California law here and thus the required meal and rest breaks did not apply to truck drivers. The employer cited to a clause which basically stated that a state may not enact or enforce a law related to a price, route or service of any motor carrier. However, the court was not convinced by the employer’s argument. Citing to a recently decided case on the same matter in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (Dilts v. Penske Logistics, LLC), the court held that the FAAAA does not preempt California law when it comes to meal and rest breaks.
As the above case shows, California meal and rest break laws apply to motor carrier employers and are not preempted by the FAAAA. Therefore, if a California employer fails to provide meal breaks, the employer will be liable for one hour of pay at the employee’s normal rate of compensation for each workday the meal break was not provided. Also, if an employer fails to provide rest breaks, the employer will be liable for an extra hour of pay for each workday the rest breaks are not provided. At the end of the day, this is a huge win for employees, especially truck drivers, as it solidifies the authority California’s meal and rest break laws in the workplace.