Alaska Airlines has been accused of refusing to comply with a broad sick leave law introduced in Washington State that would grant flight attendants time off to care for sick family members without penalty.
In June, the Supreme Court denied Alaska Airlines and the Air Transport Association of America the right to further appeal the issue, but the flight attendant union claims that months later, the airline still isn’t complying with the law.
In 2018, Washington introduced its Paid Sick Leave Law which is meant to cover all employees who are based in the State. The law grants employees a minimum of an hour’s paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked and it can be used by the employee to care for themself or a family member, including preventative care.
Employees are allowed to start using this paid sick leave after 90 days on the job and any time taken off under the sick leave law can’t be counted as an absence that would lead to disciplinary action or accrue attendance points.
Alaska Airlines and the Air Transport Association of America, however, argued that the sick leave law interferes with federal laws including the Air Deregulation Act which creates a uniform rulebook for the aviation industry across the United States.
Instead, Alaska Airlines and its trade body argued that airlines already provided paid sick leave to flight attendants through “extensively” negotiated collective bargaining agreements and that in return, airlines had the right to monitor performance.
One of the ways Alaska Airlines does this is through attendance points.
The Air Transport Association of America quickly filed a lawsuit against Washington State, but a local court threw out the case in 2019. The lawsuit was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court which also threw out the case in 2021, and then it was appealed to the Supreme Court.
The decision by the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal would, you would think, be the end of the matter, but Alaska Airlines is now allegedly arguing that litigation being brought against local paid leave laws in other States could have an effect on the situation in Washington.
In June, Southwest Airlines filed a lawsuit against the State of Colorado over its sick leave laws, again arguing that it contradicts a collective bargaining agreement between the airline and its flight attendants.
Southwest argues in its lawsuit that complying with Colorado’s rules would require it to hire more flight attendants which would drive up airfares.
There are also local paid sick leave laws in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, and Oregon which could be challenged.
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) say it “strongly disagrees” with Alaska’s decision not to implement the Washington State sick leave rules for Seattle-based flight attendants and is urging crew members to file complaints with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.
Alaska Airlines was also recently refused an appeal by the Supreme Court on California’s meal break provisions for flight attendants based in the State. The airline has warned that it may even pull crew bases from the State as a last resort because of the law.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.