Parker Drilling Management Services, Ltd. v. Newton

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Labor Law
  • Date Filed: January 11, 2019
  • Case #: 18-389
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 881 F.3d 1078 (9th Cir. 2018)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether, under OCSLA, state law is borrowed as the applicable federal law only when there is a gap in the coverage of federal law, as the Fifth Circuit has held, or whenever state law pertains to the subject matter of a lawsuit and is not preempted by inconsistent federal law, as the Ninth Circuit has held.

Respondent worked on Petitioner’s drilling platforms on the Outer Continental Shelf off the California coast. After termination, Respondent alleged a violations of California’s wage-and-hour laws that would provide compensation for Petitioner’s hours on duty and hours on standby at Respondent’s work site. The district court dismissed Respondent’s claims, holding that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provided a comprehensive and exclusive statutory scheme. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) mandated assimilation of applicable and consistent state law with federal law. The Ninth Circuit concluded that inconsistencies did not exist between California laws and the FLSA, because the FLSA’s saving clause allowed for adoption of more protective state minimum wage and overtime laws. Petitioner argues that the Ninth Circuit created a conflict with longstanding precedent of the Fifth Circuit, which may negatively affect enterprises subject to both Ninth and Fifth Circuit precedent. Petitioner further argues that the Ninth Circuit misinterpreted OCSLA and Supreme Court precedent establishing that state law standards serve a limited, gap-filling role in the absence of applicable federal law. Accordingly, Petitioner also argues that the FLSA exists as a comprehensive statutory scheme that leaves no gaps allowing reliance on the saving clause as  the Ninth Circuit did. Finally, Petitioner argues that even if state law can supplement comprehensive federal law, California’s wage laws are inconsistent with the FLSA scheme because they use different and more generous standards.

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