Bernstein v. Virgin Am., Inc., 2021 WL 686281 (9th Cir. 2021)

Approximately 25% of Virgin’s flights were between airports in California, and approximately 75% of Virgin’s flight took off or landed at a non-California airport, but the vast majority of those flights retained some connection to California (i.e., arrived in or departed from an airport in California); members of the class spent approximately 31.5% of their time working within California’s borders.  Virgin disputed that it is subject to California law, but did not contend that any other state’s labor laws ought to apply to it either.  The district court certified the class action and granted summary judgment to the flight attendants as to most of their wage/hour claims against Virgin.  The Ninth Circuit held that the dormant Commerce Clause permits application of California labor law in the context of this case.

The Court reversed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the flight attendants on their claims for minimum wage and payment for all hours worked, but held that California overtime rules did apply to the class and that the class’ meal and rest claims were properly adjudicated in favor of the flight attendants, as were their clams for wage statement violations and waiting time penalties.  Finally, the Ninth Circuit held that Virgin was not subject to the “heightened penalties” of the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) because it was not notified by the Labor Commissioner or any court that it was subject to the California Labor Code until the district court partially granted plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion in this case.  See also Ward v. United Airlines, Inc., 986 F.3d 1234 (9th Cir. 2021) (federal law does not preclude California from applying its wage statement law to airline pilots and flight attendants); International Bhd. of Teamsters v. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Admin., 986 F.3d 841 (9th Cir. 2021) (federal law preempts California meal and rest break rules as applied to property-carrying commercial motor vehicles).