The Ninth Circuit today asked the Supreme Court to decide this question: “Do non-convicted incarcerated individuals performing services in county jails for a for-profit company to supply meals within the county jails and related custody facilities have a claim for minimum wages and overtime under Section 1194 of the California Labor Code in the absence of any local ordinance prescribing or prohibiting the payment of wages for these individuals?”

The federal appellate panel’s order, in Ruelas v. County of Alameda, say the class action plaintiffs in the case before it “are or were pretrial detainees, detainees facing deportation, or federal detainees” in a county jail who are or were “performing industrial food preparation services and cleaning” for one of the defendants — a private for-profit company — under that defendant’s contract with the defendant county.

The panel calls the issue “a novel and important” one.

The Supreme Court should let the Ninth Circuit know by the end of the year — give or take — whether it will answer the question.  It probably will. The court has granted 17 of the last 18 Ninth Circuit requests for help in resolving questions of California law, dating back to July 2018.  The lone denial during that time was in October 2019.

[November 2 update: The court has docketed Ruelas.]


Rule 8.548

Asked and answered:  California Supreme Court responses to Ninth Circuit questions

The constitutionality of the Supreme Court answering the Ninth Circuit’s legal questions

Ask not what the Supreme Court can do for the Ninth Circuit

Justice Kruger and Judge Owens talk about the Supreme Court answering Ninth Circuit questions

The shadow docket . . . of California’s Supreme Court, part 2