Ninth Circuit revives overtime class action lawsuit against Oracle

Posted on: December 28th, 2011 by Steve Larson

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a federal district court ruling in favor of Oracle.  Under California’s wage and hour laws, the appellate court found Oracle could be liable for unpaid wages if it did not compensate out-of-state computer trainers for overtime work performed in the state.

Oracle employees who were residents of Arizona and Colorado had sued the company for not paying them overtime for work performed in California. The trial judge granted summary judgment in Oracle’s favor.

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit asked the California Supreme Court to provide guidance on whether the California labor code applies to nonresident employees when they perform work in the state. In June, the California high court ruled that it did, finding that not applying California law would encourage employers to substitute lower-paid temporary employees from other states for California employees.

The Ninth Circuit agreed with the Supreme Court’s common sense analysis: If you’re a business in California, you will have to comply with California’s overtime laws. You can’t treat people differently because they live in a different state.

Employment lawyers and business groups argued the ruling would drive business away from California, reduce business travel and lead to a spike in wage-and-hour lawsuits against companies doing business in the state.  Such fears have not materialized.

While reviving the bulk of the employees’ claims, the Ninth Circuit rejected their argument that California laws should apply to overtime work performed outside of California under the facts of the case.

The Ninth Circuit sent the case back down to the district court for further proceedings.