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Time to Check In: Notable W&H Rulings in Aviation

Law360 Employment Authority

From undergoing airport security screenings to regularly working in multiple jurisdictions, airline industry workers face a host of unusual circumstances, and recent rulings on paid sick leave, meal breaks and more showcase these particularities of working in the aviation industry.

These cases deal with typical wage and hour disputes that are complicated by the not-so-typical workplace — an airport terminal or a plane crossing borders.


NYC Sick Time Law No-Go for Delta Air Lines Flight Crew

A New York federal court "struck the right balance" when it determined that the New York City Earned Sick Time Act violated the preemption provision of the federal Airline Deregulation Act, said William Anthony, a partner at management-side firm Blank Rome LLP.

Delta Air Lines had sued the city claiming its sick leave ordinance as applied to Delta flight crews overstepped federal law barring state or local regulations "related to a price, route or service of an air carrier."

"I kind of felt like [the court was] trying to balance the employee's rights with the rights of a broader group," Anthony said, comparing flight crews who might not be performing that much work in New York City against passengers and other workers who could be potentially disrupted by this statute.

Notably, the court said it disagreed with a recent Ninth Circuit decision that "a state or local law is preempted only when it 'binds' an airline to a particular price, route, or service," according to U.S. District Judge I. Leo Glasser's Sept. 30 opinion.

An underlying issue in this case is a common question facing all employers during the pandemic, which is which employment law applies to remote workers in multiple jurisdictions, Anthony said.

"If states and localities where airports are based are going to start enacting labor laws that impact the service to that extent, it's going to cause even more of a loss, and more of a burden on our country," he said. "I do think that the Supreme Court or Congress is going to just revisit that preemption provision."


'Amusing' Arguments Don't Fly for Federal Preemption

A Ninth Circuit panel rebuffed industry lobbying group Airlines for America's arguments that Washington state's paid sick leave law violates the Airline Deregulation Act, ruling May 21 that the law does not specifically "regulate the airline-customer relationship."


"I think that they should have done a little bit more of an analysis," Blank Rome's Anthony said, because the Ninth Circuit essentially said if it's a general law, "we're going to leave it up to the companies to figure it out."

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“Time to Check In: Notable W&H Rulings in Aviation,” by Daniela Porat was published in Law360 Employment Authority on October 12, 2021.