In Sullivan, et. al. v. Oracle Corporation, the California Supreme Court ruled on whether California’s overtime laws apply to out-of-state residents who perform work in California. The Court held that California’s interests in protecting all workers who perform work within the state are sufficient enough to require that California based employers must pay all out-of-state workers who perform work in California according to California’s overtime requirements.

The Plaintiffs were employed by Oracle as instructors who train Oracle’s customers in the use of the company’s products. Two Plaintiffs reside in Colorado, and another plaintiff resides in Arizona. The Plaintiffs primarily worked in their home states but also performed work in California and other states. During the relevant time period for this case (2001-2004), Plaintiff Sullivan worked 74 days in California, Plaintiff Evich worked 110 days, and Plaintiff Burkow worked 20 days.

The case came to the California Supreme Court as a request by the Ninth Circuit to decide unresolved questions of California law. The issues presented to the Court were:

  1. Does the California Labor Code apply to overtime work performed in California for a California-based employer by out-of-state plaintiffs in the circumstances of this case, such that overtime pay is required for work in excess of eight hours per day or in excess of forty hours per week?
  2. Does Business and Professions Code section 17200 apply to the overtime work described in question one?
  3. Does Section 17200 apply to overtime work performed outside California for a California-based employer by out-of-state plaintiffs in the circumstances of this case if the employer failed to comply with the overtime provisions of the FLSA?

Does California Overtime Apply to Out-Of-State Plaintiffs Working In California?

The Supreme Court held that the Plaintiffs were owed California overtime. It explained:

California’s overtime laws apply by their terms to all employment in the state, without reference to the employee’s place of residence. The overtime statute declares simply that “[a]ny work in excess of eight hours in one workday and . . . 40 hours in any one workweek . . . shall be compensated at the rate of no less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay . . . .” (Lab. Code, § 510, subd. (a), italics added.) The civil enforcement provision provides that “any employee receiving less than . . . the legal overtime compensation applicable to the employee is entitled to recover in a civil action the unpaid balance . . . .” (Id., § 1194, subd. (a), italics added.) Moreover, a preambular section of the wage law (Lab. Code, div. 2, pt. 4, ch. 1, §1171 et seq.) confirms that our employment laws apply to “all individuals” employed in this state (id., § 1171.5, subd. (a), italics added).

The Court explained that states have broad authority under their police powers to regulate employment matters within their boundaries (such as child labor laws, minimum and other wage laws, and workers compensation laws). “To exclude nonresidents from the overtime laws’ protection would tend to defeat their purpose by encouraging employers to import unprotected workers from other states.”

The Court was clear that the holding in this case is limited to the facts presented to it. The court stated, “[t]hus, we are not prepared, without more thorough briefing of the issues, to hold that IWC wage orders apply to all employment in California, and never to employment outside of California.” (emphasis in original).

Does B&P Code Section 17200 (“Unfair Competition Law” or “UCL”) Apply to The Unpaid Overtime?

The Supreme Court held it does, stating:

We have already decided that the failure to pay legally required overtime compensation falls within the UCL’s definition of an “unlawful . . . business act or practice”

Does the UCL Apply When To Claims Under the FLSA for Overtime Worked By Nonresidents In Other States?

The Court concluded that the UCL does not apply to claims under the FLSA for alleged violations that occurred in other states. It explained that in holding so would extend the UCL to apply outside of California’s boarders, in violation of the “presumption against extraterritorial application.”