Interesting Case in the Preemption Wars

In the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 and the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 Congress expressly preempted some state laws and regulations that would set the economic rules for the commerical airline and trucking industries. Congress had partially deregulated those industries, and, to an extent, it didn't want the states to disturb the regulatory vacuum that it had created. But do Congress's express preemption provisions apply to generally applicable state laws — such as state laws that regulate workers' meal and rest breaks — that apply to all industries? Not surprisingly, defendants say yes, and plaintiffs–who want state wage and hour laws to be honored–say no.

With that issue in mind, consider the questions presented in Dilts v. Penske Logistics, No. 12-55705, which is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit:

The Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA) provides, as a “[g]eneral rule,” that “a State … may not enact or enforce a law … related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier … with respect to the transportation of property.” 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1). The Act further provides that this general rule “shall not restrict the safety regulatory authority of a State with respect to motor vehicles.” 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(2)(A). The issues presented are:

1. Does the FAAAA preempt California’s generally applicable requirements, embodied in the California Labor Code and Industrial Welfare Commission orders, that employers provide their workers with meal and rest breaks?

2. Are California’s meal-and-rest-break requirements, as applied to motor carriers, saved from preemption because they fall within “the safety regulatory authority of [the] State”?

Read the
plaintiffs' appellate brief and the
defendants' appellate brief. [CL&P contributors Deepak Gupta, Brian Wolfman, and Greg Beck represent the plaintiffs on appeal.]


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