California Labor and Employment Defense Blog

Sullivan v. Oracle -- Residents of Other States are Entitled to Labor Code Remedies for Work in California

The recent case of Sullivan v. Oracle dealt with the thorny issue of what law should apply to employees whose work carries them across state lines.  The Ninth Circuit held that work performed  in California should generally be governed by California's strict wage and hour laws -- even if the employee is a resident of another state and is only temporarily working in California.

Due to a prior lawsuit Oracle treated its "technical instructors" in California as non-exempt  and entitled to overtime.  Outside of California, however, its instructors remained classified as salaried-exempt.  The "choice-of-law" problem arose when several instructors from Colorado and Arizona performed short term assignments in California.  These individuals filed a class action lawsuit seeking overtime wages under California law. 

In the end, the Ninth Circuit held that the "balance of interests" supported the application of California Law.  As the Court explained: "We fail to see any interest Colorado or Arizona have in ensuring that their residents are paid less when working in California than California residents who perform the same work."

The Ninth Circuit's decision  to apply California law was not particularly surprising.  The interesting part is how it got there -- by holding, in effect, that whichever law allows the employee to be paid more should apply.

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