Denying the employer’s petition for review, California Supreme Court rules California motor carriers must comply with the same meal and rest break rules as other California employers

The California Supreme Court has denied a trucking company’s petition challenging a ground-breaking Court of Appeal decision upholding the right of truck drivers to meal and rest breaks under California law.  On February 11, the Court rejected the petition for a hearing before the Supreme Court at the weekly conference when the Court decides which cases to hear.

At stake in the case is a $1 million class action judgment against AB Trucking of Oakland for numerous violations of California labor law, including failing to provide meal and rest breaks, paying nothing to some drivers whom it classified as “trainees,” and deducting from wages for meal breaks that were never received.  The class action was brought by Lavon Godfrey and Gary Gilbert who worked as truck drivers for AB. Godfrey and Gilbert drove AB’s trucks between the Port of Oakland and AB's nearby yard. They also delivered freight to AB customer locations elsewhere in the state.  The drivers prevailed at trial on most of their claims.

AB appealed the award of damages on grounds that California laws requiring employers to provide meal and rest breaks did not apply to motor carriers because the FAAAA, a federal trucking deregulation law enacted in 1994, bars states from enforcing laws that interfere with their operations in certain ways.

In Godfrey v. Oakland Port Services Corp. (AB Trucking) (Oct. 28, 2014) 220 Cal.App.4th 1267,  the Court of Appeal issued a unanimous opinion holding that the FAAAA does not bar California from enforcing its meal and rest break laws against employers in the trucking industry.

The California Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case ends AB Trucking’s appeal unless AB convinces the United States Supreme Court to take the case.

Barring a contrary ruling by the United States Supreme Court in Godfrey or another case, California motor carriers must comply with the same meal and rest break rules as other California employers.

In short, they must provide a 30-minute uninterrupted, off-duty meal period within the first five hours of work and an opportunity for a second meal period if a driver works more than 10 hours in a shift.  A shift of 3 ½ work hours or more entitles an employee to one 10-minute paid rest break; a shift of 6 work hours or more entitles an employee to two 10-minute paid breaks; and a shift of 10 work hours or more entitles an employee to three 10-minute paid rest breaks.

The plaintiff truck drivers in the case are represented by Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld.

For questions regarding meal and rest break laws or the FAAAA, contact your labor law counsel.

February, 13 2015

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