February 5, 2021
Authored by: Christopher Archibald
On February 2, 2021, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision that affects all California employers that employ interstate transportation workers. In Ward v. United Airlines, the court held that federal law did not prevent California’s wage statement law from applying to pilots and flight attendants who are based in California, spend most of their time working outside of California, and do not work a majority of the time in any one state. Specifically, the court rejected arguments based on three sources of federal law: the dormant Commerce Clause, the Airline Deregulation Act, and the Railway Labor Act.
The dormant Commerce Clause limits the states’ authority to enact or enforce laws that burden interstate commerce, even in the absence of legislation by Congress. State laws that discriminate against or directly regulate interstate commerce are virtually per se invalid, while non-discriminatory laws that have only incidental effects on interstate commerce will generally be upheld unless the burden on interstate commerce is clearly excessive in relation to the putative local benefits. The Ninth Circuit held that California’s wage statement law does not discriminate against interstate commerce, because the law applies to employers evenhandedly whether they are based inside or outside of California. It also does not result in direct regulation of interstate commerce, because it does not have the practical effect of dictating the price of goods sold out of state or tying the price of in-state products to out-of-state prices. The court also held that the burden of complying