California's wage and hour laws
California has two main sources of laws that govern the wages, hours and working conditions of California workers. The first is the California Labor Code. The second are what are referred to as "California Wage Orders."
California has 18 Wage Orders. 16 California Wage Orders relate to specific industries and occupations. There is one general minimum wage order that applies to all California employers and employees (excluding public employees and outside salespersons). And there is one order implementing the Eight-Hour-Day Restoration and Workplace Flexibility Act of 1999. California's Wage Orders protect California workers.
California’s labor laws are among the toughest (read: best for workers) in the nation. California employment laws in most instances, go beyond federal standards, meaning that employers must also go beyond federal standards.
California's Wage Order #9
California's Wage Order No. 9 is a state employment law that applies to transportation workers.
California's Wage Order #9 was enacted by the California State Department of Industrial Relations in 2001. Among other things, The law guarantees meal and rest breaks for transportation workers.
Wage Order No. 9 has a definition section which states:
“Transportation Industry” means any industry, business or establishment operated for the purpose of conveying persons or property from one place to another whether by rail, highway, air or water, and all operations and services in connection therewith; and also includes storing or warehousing of goods or property, and the repairing, parking, rental, maintenance, or cleaning of vehicles. (Wage Order 9-2001 2(N).
Drivers, driver helpers and warehouse workers are "Transportation workers" covered by California Wage Order No. 9. Other persons, such as persons in the automobile painting business are also covered by Wage Order 9.
Section 11 of California's Wage Order #9 requires employers to provide one uninterrupted 30 minute meal break for every five hours of work. During this half hour, the employee must be relieved of all duties and not be under employer control. Sitting in your truck, watching the truck or protecting the truck, while you are "clocked out" for half an hour does not qualify as a meal break.
Many California trucking and delivery companies try to meet this obligation by automatically deducting thirty minutes of your work time for a mandatory meal period. You may have to verify that you received this meal period when you sign off on your route sheet. But, if you aren’t getting a legally compliant meal break, you are being cheated—you are having pay deducted for a meal break that you never got.
Brinker vs. Superior Court - you should know about this huge California Supreme Court case
The main case for meal breaks in California is the ground-breaking California Supreme Court case - Brinker vs. Superior Court. In the Brinker case, the California Supreme Court laid out the duties that California companies have, including providing meal periods and rest periods to workers.
I know the Brinker case really well, because I represented the workers in the Brinker case.
1. It relieves you of all duty,
2. Relinquishes control over you activities and
3. Permits you a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break, and
4. Your employer does not impede or discourage you from doing so.
Brinker, at p. 1040.
Section 11 of California's Wage Order #9 mandates a 10 minute rest period for every four hours (or major fraction of four hours) that the employee works, as long as the employee works more than three and a half hours. This rest period should be provided in the middle of the four hour period, and the employee should be relieved of all duties at that time. However, truck drivers and other transportation workers rarely get these breaks.
Let's break this down a little further.
The first important part is that the 10 minute rest break must be completely duty free, just like meal breaks. It must be free from all work tasks. All means all. Not some. But all. And you must be free from all employer control during rest breaks. All means all. Not some. But all.
An employers' responsibilities for rest breaks are the same for meal and rest periods. So, if you read the list above and if any of those things applied to you're rest break, then you didn't get a legally compliant rest break.
This is all based upon the California Supreme Court case - Augustus vs. ABM.
Bill Turley wrote the winning brief in the California Supreme Court case - Augustus vs. ABM
In 2016, the California Supreme Court issued another huge decision for workers that protects worker’s rights to rest breaks - Augustus vs ABM.
Bill wrote the brief in Augustus vs ABM where he urged the California Supreme Court to hold that employers have the same duties to provide rest breaks as they do to provide meal breaks. In the Augustus case the California Supreme Court ruled the way Bill urged them to rule in his brief.
In that way, Bill wrote the winning brief in the California Supreme Court Augustus case.
Bill Turley is frequently asked to testify before the California State Senate and California Assembly on potential wage and hour legislation
Are You Getting Your Meal Periods and Rest Breaks?
In our experience, very few California drivers and warehouse workers get the breaks they are entitled to under Wage Order #9.
If you aren’t receiving your meal periods and rest breaks, your employer must pay you an amount equal to one hour of your wages. If lunch means picking up a burger at the closest drive-thru and eating it behind the wheel, you are not getting your meal period. What can you do?
Contact an attorney with experience in California wage and hour cases. The attorney will be able to tell you if you have a case. If you were denied your rights, you will eligible for compensation for your meal breaks and your legal fees. Get more information in our book, California Truck & Delivery Driver Wage Theft: The Ultimate No B.S. Guide To Getting Your Hard Earned Wages Back .
Your next step
If you have questions or concerns that you haven't p[aid all the wages that you are owed from a current or former employer, call us and we can help.
Or fill out the contact form on this webpage
Example of Occupations Covered by Wage Order No. 9
Armored car service
ferry Bus lines
tour Car loading
Car washes, when not in retail business
Express and parcel delivery companies
Ferryboats Garages, repair (except when operated by vehicle dealer or gas station, see Order 7)
Logging trucks, commercial (for on-site logging, see Order 16)
Maintenance of vehicles, e.g., garages, car washes, etc., if not connected with gas station or vehicle dealer (if connected with gas station or vehicle dealer, See Order 7) Mini-storage connected with a transportation firm (if not connected with a transportation firm, see Order 5)
Moving and storage warehousing (of commodities moved)
Parcel delivery service
Rental of vehicles (cars, trucks, boats, ships, airplanes)
Repairs to vehicles (except when operated by vehicle dealer or gas station, see Order 7)
Storage and moving warehouse (of commodities moved)
Taxi service, including water taxis
Tire aligning and balancing companies
Tour buses, companies
Trucking, including commercial trucking of farm products
Vehicle rental, including boats and ships
Vehicle repairs (except when operated by vehicle dealer or gas station, see Order 7) Warehousing and storage (of commodities moved)
Water taxi service