Los Angeles L&E Team Obtains Wage and Hour Class Action Victory for Performance Food Group

February 13, 2012

Los Angeles labor and employment attorneys Matthew Kane, Michael Mandel, Sabrina Beldner and Sylvia Kim have won the dismissal of a California meal-break violations class action brought against the Vistar and Roma Food divisions of client Performance Food Group (PFG). On Feb. 8, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted PFG’s motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ second amended complaint on the grounds that California’s meal-break laws and all of the plaintiff’s claims based on alleged violations of those laws are preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA), which expressly preempts state laws that have a significant impact on the routes, services or prices of federally-regulated motor carriers.

The plaintiffs, who are former PFG truck drivers in California, alleged that PFG built its delivery routes to ensure timely delivery and customer service, but did so by imposing delivery windows and other delivery policies that caused “time pressure” which prevented them and other drivers from being able to take meal breaks as ostensibly required under California law. In its motion to dismiss, PFG successfully argued that no factual analysis was necessary to decide the preemption issue because California’s meal break laws facially impose substantive standards regarding the timing, frequency and duration of such breaks on PFG’s operations as a motor carrier, and that those meal break requirements have a significant and prohibited impact on its operations triggering preemption under the FAAAA.

This ruling is one of only two decisions to hold that California’s meal-break laws, as applied to a motor carrier’s truck drivers, are preempted by the FAAAA. In so holding, the court expressly rejected the application of several earlier state and federal trial court decisions which held that the effect of California’s break laws on a carrier’s routes, service and prices is too remote or tenuous for FAAAA preemption to apply. Instead, the district judge relied on and applied a recent September 2011 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision holding that the “proper inquiry” for determining if a state law has a “significant” effect for purposes of FAAAA preemption is to consider if it “directly or indirectly, ‘binds the … carrier to a particular price, route or service and thereby interferes with competitive market forces within the industry.” In applying that “proper inquiry,” the district judge adopted PFG’s arguments and authorities to conclude that California’s break laws require breaks for employees at certain times and of certain lengths, which substantively impact and bind PFG to routes and service it would not otherwise use and/or provide, and are therefore preempted by the FAAAA. Accordingly, the court dismissed the plaintiffs’ action in its entirety with prejudice. In achieving this result, the Los Angeles team had invaluable support from paralegal Rachel Evey.