What is the case about?
Newell v. Ensign United States Drilling (California), Inc. (“Ensign Drilling”) is an Offshore Oil Platform Wage Class Action against Ensign Drilling. Plaintiff alleges that Ensign Drilling failed to pay California overtime wages to him and all other persons who worked on oil platforms off the California coast. Plaintiff and his co-workers (the “Putative Class”) worked a hitch basis, where they worked periods of one or more weeks on the platforms, followed by one or more weeks spent resting on land. Despite the fact that Plaintiff was restrained to the worksite (the oil platform) for the duration of his hitch, Ensign Drilling typically compensated Plaintiff with pay for only twelve hours each day. The remaining 12 hours were typically not compensated.
Plaintiff alleges that California law applies on the oil platforms at issue here and that Ensign Drilling’s wage-payment scheme violates California law. Seymore v. Metson Marine, Inc., 194 Cal. App. 4th 361, 376 (2011), disapproved of on other grounds by Mendiola v. CPS Sec. Sols., Inc., 60 Cal. 4th 833 (2015) (“California courts have consistently held that an employee required to sleep at the worksite is subject to the employer’s control during sleeping hours.”). Seymore involved employees on boats traveling between oil platforms, who worked 14-day hitches, had to sleep on their assigned boat(s), and were paid for only 12 hours each day. The California Court of Appeal held that all the hours spent by the employees were “hours worked” under California law, because they were required to sleep on the work premises. Id. at 380. Based on this authority, Plaintiff brings alternative claims for California minimum wage and overtime violations, seeking recovery of wages for the 12 hours of uncompensated time each day. Plaintiff also seeks meal and rest period premiums under California law, because the failure to permit Plaintiff to leave the worksite means that Plaintiff was always subject to the control of Defendant and, therefore, never relieved of all duty, as required by California meal and rest period laws. See Augustus v. ABM Sec. Servs., Inc., 2 Cal. 5th 257, 260 (2016). Plaintiff seeks a penalty under Labor Code section 226(e) for Defendant’s failure to include all hours worked by Plaintiff on his paycheck stubs, as required by section 226(a). Plaintiff also sues under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004, Labor Code sections 2698 through 2699.5 (“PAGA”), seeking civil penalties for the above-mentioned violations of the California Labor Code on behalf of himself and all other similarly aggrieved employees of Defendant Ensign Drilling.
What is the latest update in the case?
The case is currently in progress. No trial date has been set. Ensign Drilling has lost the key legal issue of whether California law applies on the platforms and has appealed that issue to the California Supreme Court. The Supreme Court will decide in the next couple of months whether to take the case. Unless the Supreme Court takes the case, the case will continue to progress in the state court in Kern County, California.
Plaintiff filed his initial Complaint against Ensign Drilling in the Kern County Superior Court on June 22, 2015. He filed a First Amended Complaint on August 3, 2015.
On November 8, 2016, the Court certified the case as a class action for the limited purpose of allowing the parties to summarily adjudicate Ensign Drilling’s key defense that California wage-and-hour laws do not apply on the oil platforms in federal waters off the California coast. The limited certified class was defined as Ensign Drilling’s “non-exempt employees that worked and stayed on oil platforms located in federal waters off the California coast for periods of 24 hour or more.”
On April 28, 2017, Ensign Drilling filed its motion for summary adjudication, asserting that California wage-and-hour laws do not apply on the oil platforms located in federal waters off the coast of California.
On June 30, 2017, Plaintiff filed his opposition to the motion for summary adjudication.
On July 28,2017, Ensign Drilling filed its reply to Plaintiff’s opposition.
On August 18, 2017, the Court vacated the hearing on the motion for summary adjudication pending the decision by the Ninth Circuit as to the applicability of California wage-and-hour law to oil platforms in federal waters off the coast of California in another one of our cases, Newton v. Parker Drilling Management Services.
On February 5, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in Newton v. Parker Drilling Management Services, holding that California wage-and-hour laws are applicable on oil platforms in federal waters off the California coast and that California’s minimum wage and overtime laws must be followed by employers to employees on such platforms.
On May 18, 2018, Ensign Drilling filed a brief with this Court arguing that the ruling in Newton should not be applied retroactively in this case. In other words, Ensign Drilling argued that even if California minimum wage and overtime laws must be followed on the oil platforms in federal waters off the California coast, Ensign Drilling should not be held liable for minimum wage or overtime violations occurring prior to the Newton decision.
On June 15, 2018, the Court in this case denied Ensign Drilling’s Motion for Summary Adjudication, holding, as did the Ninth Circuit in Newton, that California’s wage-and-hour laws must be followed on the oil platforms in federal waters off the California coast. The Court also held that its decision is retroactive, meaning that California law should have been followed by Ensign Drilling going back to June 22, 2011. The ruling applies to all members of the class certified for limited purposes on November 8, 2015.
On August 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion to certify the class.
On October 9, 2018, the Fifth District of the California Court of Appeal denied Ensign Drilling’s appeal of the summary adjudication and retroactivity rulings.
On October 12, 2018, Ensign Drilling filed its opposition to Plaintiff’s motion to certify the class.
On October 22, 2018, Ensign Drilling filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the California Supreme Court, requesting review of the trial court’s denial of Ensign Drilling’s summary adjudication and retroactivity motions.
Where is the case pending?
The case is currently pending in the California Superior Court for the County of Kern as case number BCV-15-100367, before the Honorable Thomas S. Clark. Case filings are available at the court’s website (https://odyprodportal.kern.courts.ca.gov/PORTALPROD/Home/WorkspaceMode?p=0#top [search using the case number of the case]).
The petition for review before the California Supreme Court has been given the case number of S252071.
Who are the lawyers representing the class?
The class is represented by two law firms: Strauss & Strauss, APC and Palay & Hefelfinger, APC.
Who is in the class?
TThe putative class is defined as “All hourly employees of Ensign United States Drilling (California) Inc., who, at any time within four years from the date of filing of this lawsuit, worked on oil platforms off of the California coast for periods of 24 hours or more.”
I think I am a class member. What should I do?
Please contact Strauss & Strauss directly for more information. Call us at (805) 641-6601.
Key Documents in the Case
Limited Class Certification Order
Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint
Order Denying Ensign Drilling’s Motion for Summary Adjudication
Ensign Drilling’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the California Supreme Court