CRST scores another victory in federal rest break lawsuit
April 6, 2021
A federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss a wage lawsuit against CRST, another major blow to truckers alleging the company did not provide meal or rest breaks.
On April 1, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a California federal district court’s order dismissing a wage lawsuit against Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based CRST. In a lawsuit initially filed more than 12 years ago, James Cole and other truckers for CRST accuse the company of not providing meal or rest breaks required by California state law.
The Ninth Circuit panel agreed with the district court that CRST satisfied its obligations under California law to provide meal and rest breaks to truckers. The appellate court also upheld the lower court’s order to decertify Cole’s subclasses in the class action lawsuit.
Essentially, both courts found that Cole could not show that CRST precluded its drivers from taking the mandated meal and rest breaks.
In fact, CRST gave truckers discretion to plan their trips and take breaks accordingly. In a similar 2012 California case, the court ruled that the employer has no obligation “to police meal breaks and ensure no work thereafter is performed.”
During Cole’s deposition, he said if he wanted to stop and take a break, he could. He also confirmed that CRST never instructed him not to take breaks. Cole’s main argument was that tight mileage requirements precluded taking breaks. Evidence revealed that CRST relieved employees of all duty, relinquished control over their activities and permitted them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break without impeding or discouraging them from doing so.
The Ninth Circuit’s order has been on hold for more than a year and a half. In August 2019, the Ninth Circuit certified two questions to the California Supreme Court regarding Cole’s case:
- Does the absence of a formal policy regarding meal and rest breaks violate California law?
- Does an employer’s failure to keep records for meal and rest breaks taken by its employees create a rebuttable presumption that the meal and rest breaks were not provided?
The federal appeals court decided that Cole failed to show that absence of a formal meal/rest break policy supports class certification. The panel explained that CRST drivers were able to take breaks unimpeded by the lack of a formal policy.
Cole still has the option to petition for a rehearing in front of the full Ninth Circuit or petition to the United States Supreme Court. LL
Senior Editor Mark Schremmer contributed to this report.