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Court Allows Suit Challenging Rules On Driver Breaks

Don’t eat while you drive.


An appellate court has sided with a West Los Angeles concrete company in a suit filed against the state of California for requiring 30-minute meal periods for drivers of ready-mix concrete trucks.


Westside Concrete Co. Inc. sued the state’s Industrial Welfare Commission, which makes wage orders, and the Department of Industrial Relations’ division of labor standards enforcement, which interprets and enforces labor laws.


The litigation grew out of an October 2000 decision by the commission to require employers who do not provide 30-minute meal breaks to compensate workers with an hour’s pay as a penalty. The following year, the division of labor standards enforcement issued opinion letters that questioned whether employers in the ready-mix concrete industry could provide on-duty meal periods without damaging the concrete. Those opinion letters generally apply to specific cases and are not seen as covering an entire industry.


In its suit, Westside claimed that drivers of ready-mix concrete trucks cannot leave in mid-pour to take an uninterrupted lunch break, said its lawyer, Steve Atkinson, a partner at Atkinson Andelson Loya Ruud & Romo PC.


“In the truck-driving industry, it’s been common for years for guys to eat while they drive, particularly in L.A. where there are lots of stops,” he said. Taking breaks “is not realistic in those situations where a guy can just leave his truck and trailer on the side of the road and not pay attention to it for 30 minutes.”

Westside sued in December 2002, claiming the division’s opinion letters should be applied to the industry as a whole, rather than a specific company.


Last year, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge threw out the case, but a 2nd Appellate District panel reversed the ruling and sent the case to trial in L.A.


“We’re confident we’ll prevail on all the issues at the trial court in Los Angeles once all the facts are put to light,” she said.



Expanded Piper


In the next few years, the firm formerly known as Piper Rudnick LLP expects to exceed 100 attorneys in Los Angeles, helped in a big way by last week’s merger with Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich LLP, said Jeffrey Rosenfeld, managing partner of Piper Rudnick’s local offices.


Gray Cary, based in Silicon Valley, added its first Los Angeles office with the merger, which becomes effective on Jan. 1.


The combined firm, Piper Rudnick Gray Cary LLP, will have 1,300 lawyers nationwide and projected 2004 revenue of $800 million.


Piper Rudnick has about 50 attorneys in Century City and a downtown office that opened this year headed by real estate rainmaker Michael Meyer. Meyer and six other attorneys joined the firm in February from Pillsbury Winthrop LLP.


Staff reporter Amanda Bronstad can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 225, or at

abronstad@labusinessjournal.com

.

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