San Francisco Employment Lawyer: Calif. Workers Lose as FAAAA Trumps State Laws

03/20/2012 // San Francisco, CA, USA // Keller Grover LLP // San Francisco Employment Lawyer Eric Grover

San Francisco, CA (San Francisco Employment Lawyer News) — Objections against recent rulings that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA) pre-empts California’s meal and rest break standards are growing, especially after a federal judge ruled against a class action asserting that California truck drivers have been deprived of their meal and rest periods, reports California employment lawyer Eric Grover of Keller Grover LLP.

“Twice in recent months, federal courts have found that a rather obscure federal law, the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act, or FAAAA, preempted California’s meal and rest break standards for certain truck drivers,” explains Grover, a San Francisco employment attorney. “These preemptions evidence a growing shift in court rulings toward big business, but perhaps more importantly, they also may be a bellwether for similar outcomes in other states.”

According to the National Law Journal, Congress enacted the FAAAA in 1994 to keep states from adopting potentially conflicting laws and regulations, following the deregulation of the airline and transportation industries.

On February 8, U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Nguyen in Los Angeles became the second federal judge to find that the FAAAA preempts state meal and rest break laws.

The 9th Court of Appeals had earlier ruled in an unrelated case, American Trucking Association Inc. v. City of Los Angeles on Sept. 26, 2011, that in “borderline” cases the proper inquiry is whether the provision, directly or indirectly “binds the…carrier to a particular price, route or service and thereby interferes with competitive market forces within the…industry,” the National Law Journal reported.

The new precedent was tested on Dilts v Penske Logistics LLC, which concerned delivery drivers. In that case, U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino ruled that the FAAAA pre-empted California’s meal and rest break laws. The court ultimately decided the cumulative effect of California’s meal and rest-break laws on the defendant’s routes and services have a substantial impact on prices, resulting in the preemption by the FAAAA over state laws.

“These rulings, which will likely be appealed, are representative of a number of recent federal court rulings favoring the interests of big business over the rights of individual employees,” explains Grover, a California employment attorney. “Employees should still have the right to take a break, or have lunch while working their long shifts, but instead workers are having to sacrifice in the name of profits and business. The number of class action lawsuits brought against trucking and transportation employers for violating meal and rest-break violations should not be the issue, the focus should be employee rights and fair application of the law. ”

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