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.

If you have any questions about this case or about compliance with California wage and hour laws, please contact Sehreen Ladak, Hazel U. Poei, or the Jackson Lewis attorney with whom you regularly work.