Karmin v. Marine Express:
In August 2009, the California Court of Appeal, ruled that the “Seaman’s Exemption” under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) did not automatically preempt California wage law requiring overtime pay for employee’s falling under this FLSA exemption – – at least not when such employee’s perform all their work within California boundaries, and are California residents & taxpayers. State wage law as it applies to overtime pay to persons falling under this federal exemption still applies. This CA Court of Appeal ruling was made in the case in which Goyette & Associates represents an individual employee, tugboat & launch boat captain Jerrold Karmin.
Jerrold Karmin, a resident of California and licensed tugboat and launch boat captain was denied overtime pay by his employer Marine Express. Marine Express is a California corporation that, among other things, services ocean going vessels. These vessels engage in interstate and international commerce and sail under both domestic and international flags with crews from all over the world. All of Karmin’s work servicing these vessels, however, was performed within the territorial waters of California; more specifically, most of his work was performed within the San Francisco Bay. Despite this fact, Marine Express has always relied on the theory that once an employee falls under the FLSA ‘seaman’s exemption’, this exemption also ‘preempts’ and renders inapplicable California wage law regarding overtime pay. The CA Court of Appeal did not see it that way.
Following the guidance of established case law and statutes, the CA Court of Appeal recognized that the FLSA does not preempt state regulation. In fact the FLSA contains a “savings clause” which has been interpreted to expressly permit states to regulate overtime wages, particularly when other federal or maritime laws are not controlling and when the work performed is not done on the high seas or on bodies of water which cross between two or more states. The Court determined that, regardless of whether the serviced ships were bound for interstate or international commerce, a California resident working exclusively within the state territorial waters of California is entitled to overtime compensation as required by state law.
The CA Court of Appeal decision in favor of Mr. Karmin may be applicable to Marine Express and their present tugboat and launch boat captains and deckhands. For work performed entirely within California borders (and not on the high seas or between two or more states) the state law requirements for overtime pay for hours worked above eight (8) hours in a day remain controlling for tugboat and launch boat captains and deckhands.
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