Federal Court Finds California Law Applies to Out Of State Workers

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently held that California’s Labor Code applies to work performed in California by non-residents of California. Sullivan v. Oracle Corporation (08 Cal. Op. Serv. 13,881) (Nov. 6, 2008).

The three Oracle plaintiffs were Colorado and Arizona residents who traveled to California to work for periods ranging from several weeks to several months.  The plaintiffs brought a wage and hour class action against their employer, a Delaware corporation headquartered in California, seeking unpaid overtime on behalf of all out-of-state employees who worked complete days in California. The plaintiffs also brought a claim under California’s Unfair Competition Law (aka/ Business and Professions Code § 17200 et seq.), both for violations that occurred in California and throughout the United States.

The Court held that California’s overtime laws apply to nonresident employees for those periods of time that the employees worked in California. The Court reasoned that California clearly intended its labor laws to apply to work done in California by nonresidents. 

The Court rejected the employer’s due process arguments, reasoning that the company had a sufficient presence in the state such that it could be required to comply with California law. The Court noted that principles of due process require “significant contact or significant aggregation of contacts, creating state interests, such that choice of its law is neither arbitrary nor fundamentally unfair.” In this case, the Court held that the employer had sufficient contacts with California (including that its headquarters and principal place of business were in California).

The one bright spot for employers was the Court’s holding that California’s Unfair Competition Law did not apply to acts based on alleged federal wage law violations that occur outside of the state.

Following the Court’s decision, multi-state employers who conduct business in California will have to determine whether they have a sufficient presence in California to require them to comply with that state’s Labor Code with respect to nonresidents who temporarily work in the state. Since California law is considerably more strict than federal law and the law of most other states with regard to the classification of employees as exempt or nonexempt, the right to receive daily overtime, and the provision of meal and rest breaks, among other things, the Sullivan decision could prove to be an administrative burden for employers whose employees are assigned to work on a temporary basis in California.

UPDATE: Following this decision, both parties submitted Petitions for Rehearing En Banc to the Ninth Circuit.  On December 5, 2008, the Court ordered both parties to file a response to the other’s Petition. 

Tami Falkenstein-Hennick authored this blog entry.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.