On November 5, 2015, the House of Representatives approved a transportation funding bill with an amendment that would reverse a 2014 Ninth Circuit decision that California's meal and rest break laws are not preempted under the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA). This amendment is of critical importance to truck operators in California as well as the rest of the country.
House members voted 248-180 in favor of Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA)'s Amendment 783 to the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act (H.R. 22), with 23 Democrats supporting and 17 Republicans opposing the amendment. In introducing his amendment on the House floor, Rep. Denham explained:
Congress enacted the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act, or F4A, to prevent States from undermining Federal deregulation of interstate commerce through a patchwork of State regulations. Since 1994, motor carriers have been operating under the Federal meal and rest break standards until a ruling by the California Ninth Circuit Court. This amendment would remedy that issue.
The amendment seeks to clarify that the FAAAA would preempt state regulation related to meal and rest break requirements. Specifically, the measure would prohibit states from enforcing a law or regulation that prevents employees whose hours of service are subject to regulation by the Secretary of Transportation "from working to the full extent permitted or at such times as permitted . . . or imposing any additional obligations on motor carriers if such employees work to the full extent or at such times as permitted."
The amendment also contains language restricting a state from enacting or enforcing a law or regulation that:
requires a motor carrier that compensates employees on a piece-rate basis to pay those employees separate or additional compensation, provided that the motor carrier pays the employee a total sum that when divided by the total number of hours worked during the corresponding work period is equal to or greater than the applicable hourly minimum wage of [the state].
The Senate has already passed its version of the highway funding bill that did not include the FAAAA preemption amendment. The two versions of the bill will now need to be reconciled, so it is uncertain whether the Denham amendment will make it into the final legislation. The deadline for reauthorization of the transportation bill is November 20th, so this process is expected to move quickly.