December 7, 2021

Volume XI, Number 341

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December 06, 2021

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Ninth Circuit Upholds Federal Preemption of California’s Meal and Rest Break Laws for Interstate Motor Carrier Drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), within the federal Department of Transportation, is responsible for regulating commercial motor carrier safety.  In 2018, the FMCSA determined that federal law preempts California’s meal and rest break rules for interstate motor carrier drivers who are subject to the FMCSA’s rest break regulations.

The FMCSA regulations apply to commercial motor carrier drivers who operate in interstate commerce and meet other specified criteria.

California’s meal and rest break laws generally require commercial truck drivers to take more rest breaks, at greater frequency, and with less flexibility, than the federal regulations.

California’s Labor Commissioner, charged with enforcement of California’s meal and rest break laws, along with other pro-labor organizations, petitioned the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal for review of FMCSA’s preemption determination.

On January 15, 2020, the Ninth Circuit Panel, in the consolidated case of International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, held that the FMCSA’s determination reflected a permissible interpretation of the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984, and denied the petitions for review.  The Ninth Circuit’s decision means that for now interstate motor carriers need not comply with California’s meal and rest break laws but must comply with the FMCSA’s rest break requirements.  Interstate motor carriers are now permitted to implement uniform rules for drivers regardless of whether the drivers operate within California.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision may not mean interstate motor carriers are forever exempted from California’s meal and rest break regulations.  Before 2018, the FMCSA held that preemption did not apply, and the new administration could reverse the FMCSA’s 2018 determination.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2021National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 16
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About this Author

Cary G Palmer, Attorney, Jackson Lewis Law Firm
Office Managing Principal

Cary G. Palmer is Office Managing Principal of the Sacramento, California, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He represents management in employment, labor and benefits law and related litigation.

Mr. Palmer practices before the state and federal courts in California, the United States Department of Labor, the United States Equal Opportunity Commission, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, and the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. Mr. Palmer also defends management in statewide...

916-341-0404
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