Gulf Offshore Logistics, LLC v. Sup. Ct.: Offshore Workers Based in CA Are Entitled to Labor Code Protections

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In Gulf Offshore Logistics, LLC v. The Superior Court of Ventura County, Cal. Ct. App. 2d Dist., No. B298318, Dec. 7, 2020 (slip op. available here), the Court of Appeal, on remand from the California Supreme Court, reconsidered whether Louisiana law applied to employees of Louisiana-based companies that operated outside the territorial waters of California. Following recent precedent in Ward v. United Airlines, Inc., 9 Cal.5th 732 (2020), and Oman v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 9 Cal.5th 762 (2020), the court concluded that the California Labor Code applies to workers whose “base of work operations” is in California.

The plaintiffs are former crew members (two able-bodied seamen and an engineer), none of whom were California residents. They were flown into Los Angeles International Airport by their employers and shuttled to the ship, where they were employed for a “hitch” of 21 to 42 days before returning to their homes. The Adele Elise, an offshore supply ship that stationed in Port Hueneme, California, supplied four oil platforms located outside the boundaries of the state of California (a typical voyage lasted 24 hours). The plaintiffs alleged violations of the California Labor Code relating to minimum wages and overtime pay, meal and rest periods, maintenance of accurate work records, and provision of accurate and complete wage statements.

In a prior opinion, the court applied a conflict of law analysis and determined that Louisiana law governed the dispute “because that state had more significant contacts with the parties and a greater interest in regulating the employment relationships at issue.” On remand, the court acknowledged that was a mistake. Slip op. at 11. “Oman clarifies that the relevant consideration is the location in which work is performed. Here, that location is California. Other considerations, such as the residence of the employees or the location of the employer, are not relevant.” Id.

Ward and Oman applied California’s wage and hour laws to airline employees based in California, even though they worked in federally regulated airspace. Gulf extends this important concept to the federal waters off the California coast. Seamen based in California are entitled to the protections of the state’s wage and hour laws, even if their work takes them offshore.

Authored by:
Robert Friedl, Senior Counsel