Supreme Court Holds that State Wage and Hour Laws are Not Applicable to Off-Shore Workers

Today, the United States Supreme Court held that Federal laws controlled over California wage and hour statutes and regulations for workers employed off the California coast.  Reversing a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court noted that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and federal regulations already provided standards for standby time, payment of minimum wages, and similar wage related issues.  Therefore, California law on the same subjects was inapplicable.

Notably, the Supreme Court did not hold that the FLSA preempted California law in this context.  Instead, it held that because there was existing Federal law, California law simply did not apply.  This analysis may limit the Court’s holding to off-shore workers and not other California employees.  However, in view of much stricter standards imposed by California law, this decision represents a significant victory for the employer in this case and others that employ workers off the California coast.  It remains to be seen whether the rationale of this decision will extend to other circumstances in which California businesses employ workers on Federal enclaves.