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Pretrial Detainees Who Work At County Jails Are Not Entitled To CA Minimum Wage And Overtime Law

CATEGORY: Client Update for Public Agencies
CLIENT TYPE: Public Employers
DATE: Jun 05, 2024

Some pretrial or non-convicted detainees work in a kitchen in the Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County.  They prepare meals for the county’s jail population and staff under a contract between the county and a private contractor.  They are not paid for their labor.  A group of them sued the county and the private contractor in federal court for failing to pay minimum wage and overtime.

The federal district court dismissed the state law claims for overtime wages on grounds that government entities are exempt from state overtime laws.   The district court denied the County’s motion to dismiss the state minimum wage claims.

After the County’s interlocutory appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, certified the following state law question to California Supreme Court: “Do non-convicted incarcerated individuals performing services in a county jail for a for-profit company to supply meals within the county jails … have a claim for minimum wage and overtime under . . . the California Labor Code in the absence of any local ordinance [addressing the issue]?”

The California Supreme Court held that non-convicted incarcerated individuals performing services in county jails for a for-profit company to supply meals within the county’s custody facilities do not have claims for minimum wage or overtime under the California Labor Code, even in the absence of any local ordinance that provides or prohibits the payment of wages.

Ruelas v. County of Alameda, 15 Cal.5th 968 (2024).

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