Broader Enforcement of State Pay Laws?

 In Employment Law, Overtime Law, Wage Law

Airline workers at Virgin America Incorporated and Alaska Air Group Incorporated recently advanced in a wage and hour case when a federal district court judge for Bernsetein v. Virgin America Incorporated ruled that state pay requirements apply to airline workers. The amount involved in the case is estimated to be more than $25 million, which could significantly influence the willingness of courts to decide which workers can receive minimum state payments.

The Arguments Involved in the Case

The airline workers in the case argued that they were not compensated for all the hours worked and also denied overtime compensation as well as meal and rest breaks as required by California law, which the Northern District of California held in July of 2018. Under California, workers must receive time and half pay for working more than eight hours a day. Virgin Airlines, however, argues that the workers do not deserve any additional compensation.

The legal action involves 1,400 flight attendants who accused Virgin America of violating various wages and hour laws. The group that comprises this class action includes California-based flight attendants who worked for Virgin America since March 18, 2011. A smaller, subclass of flight attendants who worked with the company since March 18, 2012, was also certified. While it remains uncertain how this case will resolve, the court has scheduled a conference in August of 2018 to discuss further proceedings.

How the Case Arose

Filed in 2015, the lead plaintiff in the case argued that Virgin failed to adequately compensate its workers. Earlier in the year, to determine how California wage and hour law applies to this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit asked the California Supreme Court several questions. The California Supreme Court subsequently asked the state court to determine whether the state’s minimum wage law applies to all work performed in California including workers who operate in the state episodically and in limited amounts. The California Supreme Court also asked for information about whether out-of-state employers are required to provide workers who only work in California for a limited period during pay periods with wage statements. A California federal judge subsequently held that California labor law applies to wage and hour policies for work that is performed outside of the state.

The Airline’s Argument

In response to the argument that workers did not receive adequate compensation, the airlines argued that both the Federal Aviation Administration and United States Constitution supersede the labor laws in California. As a result, Virgin attempted to obtain a summary judgment in 2017, but this motion was denied by a United States District Judge.

Contact an Experienced Wage and Hour Lawyer

This case marks a substantial advancement in the rights of airline workers to receive adequate compensation. If you are a worker who believes that your employer has violated labor laws and owes you more compensation, you should not hesitate to speak with an experienced wage and hour lawyer at Herrmann Law today.

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