SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the California Labor Commissioner’s Office today announced the filing of a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, challenging the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) efforts to undermine the state’s meal and rest break rules. The FMCSA’s action comes in response to a petition by the American Trucking Association (ATA), incorrectly claiming that California labor protections for truck drivers are preempted by federal law.
“It is well within a state’s rights to establish standards for the welfare of our workers,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Truck drivers, like every other person protected under California’s labor laws across hundreds of different industries, deserve adequate meal and rest breaks.”
“California takes seriously the health and welfare of truck drivers, who have a right to basic worker protections that include meal and rest breaks,” said California Labor Secretary Julie A. Su. “Under the George W. Bush administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had determined that these very same worker rights were not preempted by federal law. In this reversal, the federal government would have drivers work up to 12 hours a day without breaks. We refuse to sit back and allow workers to be treated that way in California.”
The FMCSA’s authority to preempt state standards is limited to review of laws and regulations on commercial motor vehicle safety. Yet, the provisions targeted by the ATA and the FMCSA are broadly applicable workplace regulations that are not laws and regulations on commercial motor vehicle safety within the meaning of federal law. Specifically, in California, workers are generally entitled to a 30-minute meal break for shifts of five hours or more and a 10-minute break per four hours of work. In 2008, when faced with similar lobbying, the FMCSA rejected the petition, concluding that meal and rest break provisions were not regulations on commercial motor vehicle safety.
This action builds on Attorney General Becerra’s efforts to protect the rights of workers across California. In 2018, Attorney General Becerra wrote the FMCSA opposing the ATA’s attack on California’s meal and rest breaks. In January, the California Department of Justice joined a multistate comment letter opposing a National Labor Relations Board proposal that would diminish protections for millions of workers. Last year, Attorney General Becerra filed an amicus brief supporting the rights of truck drivers to receive reimbursement for certain expenses incurred in relation to their employment. Attorney General Becerra also co-led a coalition of 17 attorneys general opposing a Trump Administration rule to allow employers to pocket the tips of certain employees, resulting in the loss of up to $5.8 billion of workers’ earned tips. In November 2017, Attorney General Becerra filed a lawsuit against One Source, a janitorial subcontracting company based in Orange County, to protect janitorial workers in retail establishments all over California from wage theft.
A copy of the petition filed with the court can be found here.