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California Exempts Certain Airline Cabin Crew from California Meal and Rest Period Mandates
Mar 31, 2023

California Exempts Certain Airline Cabin Crew from California Meal and Rest Period Mandates

Topics: Union-Management Relations, Wage & Hour Issues

On March 23, 2023, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 41 providing relief for employers with airline cabin crew employees covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement (CBA) under the Federal Railway Labor Act and CBAs that cover meal and rest breaks for those employees. In addition, employers have 12 months to negotiate meal and rest periods with unions that represent cabin crew employees without being subjected to meal and rest period premium pay.

SB 41 is effective immediately.

Absent an exception, non-exempt employees in California are entitled to an unpaid meal period of at least thirty minutes beginning no later than the end of the fifth hour of work and a paid rest period of at least ten minutes for every four hours worked or a major fraction thereof. In 2021, the Ninth Circuit held in Bernstein v. Virgin America, Inc., 3 F.4th 1127 (9th Cir. 2021), cert. denied (2022), that California’s meal and rest period laws applied to California-based flight attendants even if most of their work is performed out-of-state. 

The new law is retroactive to December 5, 2022 to prevent covered cabin crew employees from commencing new legal actions.  

A collective bargaining agreement contains “any provision addressing meal and rest periods” if the agreement provides for meal and rest periods, compensation in lieu of meals, or recognizes a right to eat on board an aircraft during the course of a “duty day” (not further defined by SB 41).

SB 41 provides airline employers with some welcome and much-needed relief from California’s stringent meal and rest break laws that presented operational challenges for the airline industry. It also gives labor unions representing cabin crew employees a leg up at the bargaining table. If you have any questions regarding SB 41, please contact the author of this article or your favorite CDF attorney.

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For over 25 years, CDF has distinguished itself as one of the top employment, labor and immigration firms in California, representing employers in single-plaintiff and class action lawsuits and advising employers on related legal compliance and risk avoidance. We cover the state, with five locations from Sacramento to San Diego.

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About the Editor in Chief

Sacramento Office Managing Partner and Chair of CDF’s Traditional Labor Law Practice Group. Mark has been practicing labor and employment law in California for thirty years. His practice has a special emphasis on the representation of California employers in union-management relations and handling federal and state court litigation and administrative matters triggered by all types of employment-related disputes. He is also adept at providing creative and practical legal advice to help minimize the risks inherent in employing workers in California. He recently named “Sacramento Lawyer of the Year” in Employment Law-Management for 2021 by Best Lawyers®.
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