U.S. Supreme Court Denies Certiorari to Dilts v. Penske, Subjecting Motor Carriers to California’s Meal and Rest Break Laws

Jessica is a member of Snyder Law’s Labor and Employment Practice Group.

On January 6, 2015, Penske Logistics, one of the country’s largest trucking companies, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to review the Ninth Circuit’s holding in Dilts v. Penske Logistics, LLC (9th Cir. 2014) 769 F.3d 637. In Dilts, the court held that California’s meal and rest break laws are not preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (“FAAAA”). Amicus curiae in support of the petition included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other trucking companies such as J.B. Hunt Transport. On May 4, 2015, the Supreme Court denied Penske’s petition, thereby leaving the Ninth Circuit’s holding intact.

The FAAAA was enacted to deregulate the trucking industry across state lines. It provides that a state “may not enact or enforce a law . . . related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier with respect to transportation of property.” 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1). The test for whether a state law sufficiently “relates to” a “price, route, or service” so as to trigger FAAAA preemption has been applied with inconsistent results among district courts.

In Dilts, the Ninth Circuit resolved these conflicts—at least as far as they involved California’s meal and rest break laws. The court held that these laws do not trigger FAAAA preemption because they do not “bind” a motor carrier to specific prices, routes, or services, nor do they sufficiently impact prices, routes or services.

The result of Dilts and the Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari is far-reaching. Most commercial trucking companies having business in California are now required to provide drivers with unpaid meal periods and paid rest breaks pursuant to the precise schedule upheld by California’s Supreme Court in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004. The requirements of Brinker are more thoroughly discussed here.

Brinker does not expect employers to “police” their employees to ensure they are taking their breaks—a feat that would be especially challenging in the trucking industry. However, the decision certainly does incentivize employers to protect themselves from meal and rest break law suits by making meal and rest breaks a company requirement, addressing violations of this requirement in a timely fashion, and having in place systems that document that these breaks have been taken at the appropriate times. For those trucking companies that pay their drivers by the mile, Dilts holds an additional implication in that drivers will need to be paid a separate hourly rate for paid rest breaks.

Questions regarding compliance with Dilts, Brinker, and other wage and hour laws can be directed to Employment Law practice group members Ashley Ann Dorris (adorris@snyderlaw.com) and Jessica Farley (jfarley@snyderlaw.com).

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