California Supreme Court gives (limited) guidance on wage statement requirements for employees who work in multiple states

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In two class action cases that have been consolidated in federal court, pilots and flight attendants are alleging, among other things, that their airline employers failed to provide them with compliant wage statements under California law. In both Ward v. United Airlines, Inc. and Omar v. Delta Airlines, Inc., the Ninth Circuit asked the California Supreme Court to decide a couple questions of state law that were unsettled. One question that was common to both cases was whether employers are required to provide wage statements (pursuant to California law) to employees who perform work both in California and other locations.

In Ward, the California Supreme Court said that the answer to this question does not hinge on the employee’s place of residence/where the employee pays taxes. Instead, employers must determine whether the employee’s “principle place of work” is in California. The Court said this test is met when employees perform “the majority of their work” in California. It is unclear whether this means “at least 50%” or whether it is sufficient for the employee to work in California more than any other state. The Court’s next discussion suggests that it is the latter, but its decision leaves room for interpretation.

The Court then said that if the employee does not perform the majority of his work in California, the employer has to determine whether the employee has “a definite base of operations in California” (such as a home-base airport), in addition to performing at least some of his work in California. This conclusion implies that an employee who does not perform the majority of his work in California and who does not have a principal place if business in California does not need to be provided with a wage statement under California law.

This decision also does not apply to other sections of the Labor Code. Employers who are unsure of what their obligations are with respect to their employees who work in multiple states may want to consult with an employment attorney.