Re "L.A. trash truck policy costly," Feb. 13
Who's to blame for the impending $26-million payout to city truck drivers? Only the L.A. City Council — not the court, not the lawyers and certainly not the drivers.
When the city imposed the lunch rules years ago, the risk was hardly a secret. California enacted the 30-minute lunch requirement in 1943 to promote employee health and safety. In 1984, the state Supreme Court ruled that the city of Madera's lunchtime restrictions on police officers were illegal because the officers were "unable to engage in private pursuits." What is a more private pursuit than sleeping?
Yet the L.A. City Council gambled that its new rules against trash truck drivers sleeping at lunch would be legal. When the city was sued, the council could have settled the case right away and changed those rules. Instead, it gambled again.
And now when the foolish gamble failed, it blames the court, which was only following the law.
The writer is a wage and hour class-action lawyer.
From the start the rules promulgated sound like the work of an overly controlling and officious supervisor. I think the first measure of whether a city trash worker was slacking off would be if trash was not collected.
The city could have told napping truckers to display a sign reading: "I'm on my lunch break. Will return in 30 minutes."
Councilman Paul Krekorian's statement that he is "appalled that a court can take it upon themselves to assert that we have to retroactively pay [workers] for lunch breaks that were in fact taken by our employees" misses the point. The court was asked to decide a legal issue; it didn't take anything upon itself.
And Councilmen Joe Buscaino's and Mitchell Englander's votes against the settlement do not reflect an appreciation that the city is on the wrong side of the issue and that taking it further could be far more costly.