July 10, 2014 9:55 AM, EDT

Court: California's Meal and Rest Break Laws Apply to Truck Drivers Too

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News
A federal appeals court ruled on July 9 that federal law does not exempt motor carriers from a California law requiring that they provide truck drivers no less than a 30-minute paid meal break when their work period is more than five hours.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded back to a California federal district court a meal break class-action lawsuit filed against Penske Logistics that Penske won at the district court level.

The three-judge panel held that California’s meal and rest break laws were not related to Penske’s “prices, routes or services” and were therefore not preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994.

“Congress did not intend to preempt generally applicable state transportation safety, welfare or business rules that do not otherwise regulate prices, routes or services,” the appeals court said.

Although the court conceded that the meal and rest break law would add costs for motor carriers, it said the law does not “set prices, mandate or prohibit certain routes, or tell motor carriers what services they may or may not provide, either directly or indirectly.”

In a statement, Michael Duff, Senior Vice President & General Counsel of Penske, said the company is disappointed by the decision: "We believe federal district court Judge Sammartino correctly determined that California’s meal and rest break rules as applied to motor carriers were preempted by the FAAAA. We are still evaluating the decision and considering our options for review going forward."

The case will now be sent back to the district court for a possible trial, unless Penske seeks a rehearing with the full 9th Circuit or seeks a review by the U.S. Supreme Court.