California Court of Appeal Confirms That 2018 Federal Regulation Preempts California Meal and Rest Break Laws for Truck Drivers but Holds Regulation is Not Retroactive
California Court of Appeal Confirms That 2018 Federal Regulation Preempts California Meal and Rest Break Laws for Truck Drivers but Holds Regulation is Not Retroactive

On December 28, 2018, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) issued a regulation under the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 (49 U.S.C. § 31101, et seq.) that preempted California’s meal and rest break rules.  In doing so, the FMCSA decided that California may no longer enforce its meal and rest break laws with respect to drivers of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles.

On June 21, 2022, the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, issued a decision in Paul Garcia et al. v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County, holding that the FMCSA preemption of meal and rest break claims does not apply to claims that predate December 28, 2018.  Petitioner Paul Garcia (“Garcia”), a truck driver, filed a class action complaint against his employer, Haralambos Beverage Co. (“Haralambos”), asserting various wage and hour claims, which included meal and rest break violations.  Haralambos filed a motion to strike the meal and rest break claims on federal preemption grounds, and the trial court granted the motion.  Garcia sought review by the Court of Appeal arguing that claims predating the FMCSA’s December 28, 2018 regulation were not preempted.

The Court of Appeal agreed with Garcia and reversed the trial court, reasoning that the FMCSA had the authority to provide that a state may not enforce its own laws, but failed to do so; instead, the FMCSA used more limited language, providing that “California may no longer enforce the [meal and rest break rules] with respect to drivers of property-carrying [commercial motor vehicles] subject to FMCSA’s [hours of service] rules.” (California’s Meal and Rest Break Rules for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers, 83 Fed.Reg. 67470-01 (Dec. 28, 2018), 2018 WL 6809341 at p. 67480.)  The Court of Appeal emphasized the FMCSA’s use of limiting language, “may no longer enforce,” indicating that the agency intended the regulation to have prospective, rather than retroactive application.

As a result of the June 21, 2022 decision, meal and rest break claims brought by drivers of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles that predate December 28, 2018 will not be preempted by the 2018 FMCSA Rule.  However, claims by commercial drivers alleging meal and rest break clams that arose after December 28, 2018 will be subject to preemption based on the 2018 FMCSA regulation.  The statute of limitations for meal and rest break claims in California can be up to four years – as a result, the Garcia decision is likely to have minimal impact on future claims but may significantly impact claims that are currently pending.

Employers can direct their questions about the application of California meal and rest break rules in the trucking industry to the authors or their usual trusted counsel at AALRR.

This AALRR publication is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in reaching a conclusion in a particular area of law. Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. Receipt of this or any other AALRR publication does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Firm is not responsible for inadvertent errors that may occur in the publishing process.   

© 2022 Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo

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