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California, Teamsters sue FMCSA over rest break decision

California officials have asked a federal appeals court to overturn the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) ruling that preempted the state’s meal-and-rest break rules.

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit earlier this month.

“It is well within a state’s rights to establish standards for the welfare of our workers,” Becerra stressed in a news release. “Truck drivers, like every other person protected under California’s labor laws across hundreds of different industries, deserve adequate meal and rest breaks.”

California's action came one day after the Teamsters union took a similar step, claiming that the FMCSA did not have the legal right to do what it did.

“We are standing united in opposition to this decision,” said James Hoffa, president of the Teamsters union. “Highway safety for Teamster members and the public must never be put at risk just so that transportation corporations can eke out a little more profit.”

In 2011, California passed a law requiring employers to provide a “duty-free” 30-minute meal break for employees who work more than five hours a day, as well as a second “duty-free” 30-minute meal break for people who work more than 10 hours a day.

However, American Trucking Associations (ATA) and other groups have long petitioned lawmakers and regulators to declare that California’s measure violates federal law.

FMCSA did just that in December because it causes a disruption in interstate commerce.  

“Safety is FMCSA’s top priority and having uniform rules is a key component to increasing safety for our truck drivers,” said FMCSA Administrator Raymond Martinez in December.  “During the public comment period, FMCSA heard directly from drivers, small business owners, and industry stakeholders that California’s meal and rest rules not only pose a safety risk but also lead to a loss in productivity and ultimately hurt American consumers.”

In all, over 700 public comments were submitted to the Federal Register docket regarding the petitions from ATA and others.

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