Ninth Circuit Rules that Los Angeles County is not Immune from Suit for Failure to Pay Overtime to Tens of Thousands of Homecare Workers

On August 22, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a two-part ruling in favor of In-Home Supportive Services homecare workers represented by Nichols Kaster, PLLP and Bohrer Brady, LLC. The workers seek unpaid overtime from the County of Los Angeles for a 13-month period when their pay did not comply with new federal regulations requiring overtime pay for homecare workers.

The County of Los Angeles argued that it could not be sued for violating federal law because it was acting as an “arm of the state.” The Ninth Circuit rejected that argument, recognizing that counties are distinct from states for purposes of Constitutional immunity, and that the workers were seeking to hold Los Angeles responsible as their employer, not the State of California.

The Court also agreed with Plaintiffs that the federal regulations in question were effective January 1, 2015 not November 2015 as the County had argued. Although the federal regulations were challenged in court shortly before they went into effect, that challenge was ultimately unsuccessful. The Court held that the unsuccessful challenge did not postpone the effective date, even though the legal challenge was resolved after the effective date had passed. The Court recognized that it would be unfair to deny workers a year of wages because an employer gambled on the outcome of a legal challenge to a federal regulation.

The oral argument is available here and the opinion is available here.