January 28, 2022

Volume XII, Number 28

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Federal Law Preempts California’s Meal and Rest Break Laws for Commercial Drivers

Judge George H. Wu of the United States District Court for the Central District of California recently dismissed meal and rest break claims brought under the California Labor Code in a class action against motor carrier U.S. Xpress.

In Anthony Ayala v. U.S. Xpress Enterprises, Inc. et al, Judge Wu granted U.S. Xpress’ motion for partial summary judgment, stating that he did not possess the authority to review the merits of the case since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) determined that California’s meal and rest break rules are preempted by federal law.

By way of background, on December 28, 2018, the FMCSA published a Notice Granting Petition for Determination of Preemption in the Federal Register stating:

[T]he FMCSA concludes…(3) the MRB [California meal and rest break] [r]ules have no safety benefit; (4) the MRB Rules are incompatible with the FMCSA’s HOS [Hours of Service] Rules; and (5) enforcement of the MRB Rules would cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce. Accordingly, the FMCSA grants the petition for preemption…California may no longer enforce the MRB Rules with respect to drivers of property-carrying CMVs [commercial motor vehicles] subject to FMCSA’s HOS rules (emphasis supplied).

The Ayala case represents the first challenge to the FMCSA Preemption Determination before a California district court.

Currently, several petitions challenging the FMCSA’s preemption determination are working their way through the Ninth Circuit. These petitions are expected to briefed within the next few months. However, as of now, federal district courts are bound by the FMCSA order unless it is invalidated by the Ninth Circuit.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2022National Law Review, Volume IX, Number 142
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About this Author

Principal

Hazel U. Poei is a Principal in the Los Angeles, California, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Her practice is focused on single-plaintiff, multi-plaintiff, and class action employment litigation in state and federal courts.

Ms. Poei has also handled arbitration proceedings and matters before administrative agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Ms. Poei has also prepared briefing to the...

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