Delta flies past California peculiarities

By Rebecca Campbell | Mar 10, 2017

LOS ANGELES – A California federal judge has held that an out-of-state employee’s limited presence in California is not enough on its own to require the employer to comply with California wage and hour laws.

In Oman v. Delta Air Lines Inc., four flight attendants – three of whom are based out of California airports – filed a class action lawsuit against Delta Air Lines, alleging that Delta violates California Labor Code Section 226 and 204 by failing to provide flight attendants who work for any amount of time on the ground in California individualized wage statements disclosing the total hours worked at specific hourly rates.

Dev Oman was based out of New York/JFK airport, Todd Eichmann was based out of Los Angeles/LAX and a California resident since Feb. 2014, and before that was based out of Detroit or Seattle. Michael Lehr was based out of San Francisco, but has been a resident of Las Vegas, while plaintiff Flores is a resident of California based out of Los Angeles/LAX.

Delta filed a pre-certification summary judgement motion on the claims, which challenged the applicability of Section 226 (requiring itemized wage statements) and Section 204 (governing the timing of pay). The flight attendants, invoking Section 204, cross-moved for summary adjudication of their claims for untimely wage payments.

According to the case file, Delta pays its flight attendants on a bid packet and rotation system and each month flight attendants ‘bid’ on rotations that are scheduled to depart from the flight attendants base the following month. For each rotation, the bid packets describe the number and length of the duty periods included in the rotation, the report times for each duty period, the scheduled total flight time for each segment in the rotation and the amount of time a flight attendant can expect to be away from base. It also illustrates which of Delta’s four pay formulas will apply to the rotation, what the credit value of the rotation is and calculates the minimum compensation for each rotation.

The suit states the facts regarding how and when the flight attendants are paid and what information they receive regarding their wages are not what’s in dispute. Instead, the dispute focuses on whether the protections of the California Labor Code provisions at issue apply to the four named plaintiffs when they only worked a de minimis amount of time in California during any of the relevant pay periods.

However, Judge William Orrick of the Northern District of California granted Delta’s motion and denied the flight attendants’ motion, ruling that Sections 204 and 226 did not apply to their work.

Delta’s main argument was the four named plaintiffs can’t be covered by Sections 226 and 204 of the California Labor Code when most their work occurred in federal airspace governed by federal regulations and any work on the ground in California was de minimis and incidental to their work as flight attendants in the air.

The case ruling means that out-of-state employers with non-resident employees visiting California infrequently for work purposes now know that California’s wage and hour protections do not apply to these employees. However, the case shows that the ruling depends on factors, which are considered on a case-by-case basis.

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