Authored by Simon Yang
In American Trucking Associations, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles (“American Trucking”) last September, the Ninth Circuit clarified standards regarding the preemptory breadth of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (the “FAAAA”). The Ninth Circuit explained that FAAAA preemption is proper when a state law or regulation, directly or indirectly, binds an employer “to a particular price, route or service and thereby interferes with competitive market forces within the . . . industry.”
Since American Trucking was decided, district courts have consistently held that the FAAAA preempts California’s meal and rest break laws. In October, in Dilts v. Penske Logistics, LLC, a court in the Southern District of California granted summary judgment on meal and rest break claims brought against a trucking company. The court found the meal and rest break claims were preempted under the FAAAA. The court’s ruling explained that “[t]he fairly rigid meal and break requirements impact the types and lengths of routes that are feasible” and are “significantly related to such things as the frequency and scheduling of transportation.”
Earlier this month, in Esquivel v. Vistar Corp., a court in the Central District of California granted a motion to dismiss meal and rest break claims citing the reasoning in Dilts. The court explained that prior authorities holding that the FAAAA did not preempt California prevailing wage statutes did not apply. The court cited another recent decision, California Dump Truck Owners Association v. Nichols, in which a court in the Eastern District of California found that “prevailing wage cases are fundamentally distinguishable from those involving meal and rest break laws for purposes of FAAAA preemption” because meal and rest break laws impose rigid scheduling requirements.
The district court decisions that have followed American Trucking appear to signal a change in course among district courts addressing FAAAA preemption of meal and rest period claims in the trucking industry. Indeed, cases decided just months before the Ninth Circuit decided American Trucking rejected FAAAA preemption in meal and rest period cases.
The implications of this trend may extend beyond the trucking industry. For instance, the reasoning of the recent cases may apply to employers in the airline industry. The FAAAA was enacted to provide the same preemption provisions as were implemented in Airline Deregulation Act (“ADA”) and was intended to “even the playing field” between the airline and trucking industries. Thus, there is a strong argument that ADA preemption should apply with equal force as FAAAA preemption to employers in the airline industry whose prices, routes, or services would be impacted by the rigid requirements of California meal and rest break laws.