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City of Los Angeles pays garbage truck drivers $26 million to settle lawsuit over ban on lunchtime naps

First, the city banned garbage truck drivers from sleeping in their trucks. But city officials also issued an edict that sanitation workers were not to congregate in large groups in restaurants during their meal breaks.

Close to 1,100 sanitation workers filed a class action lawsuit. The resulting settlement paid each worker approximately $45,000 in lost pay. The case did not go to court, as the city’s attorneys indicated they would likely have to pay more money if the case did go to trial. Los Angeles taxpayers footed the final bill to reimburse garbage truck drivers for lost wages. 

California labor law mandates that non-exempt employees must have a 30-minute, uninterrupted, off-duty break no later than five hours into their shift, and a 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked. Reacting to the controlling restrictions imposed on them, sanitation workers argued that their legally entitled breaks were, in essence, being denied. It appeared that the court would likely side with the drivers — hence the $26 million out-of-court settlement recommended by the city attorney’s department.

Ignoring or attempting to circumnavigate California labor laws can be a costly misstep for employers. Employers must set aside an uninterrupted 30-minute break period for workers, allow them to come and go at will while on break, and not intimidate or prevent them from taking breaks. You can’t pay lip service to California labor laws.

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