Flight Attendants for ANY airline that have ever flown into/out-of California should give this a read and follow the story!
DPLO, along with its co-counsel Kosinski and Thiagaraj, LLP, filed a class action lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court against Virgin America seeking unpaid minimum and overtime wages. The lawsuit is brought on behalf of all Virgin America flight attendants and pilots who were employed by Virgin America over the past four years. And now, it’s progressing through the system.
The lawsuit alleges that Virgin America consistently underpaid its employees by paying its flight attendants and pilots for a pre-determined number of hours per flight, irrespective of the actual number of hours they worked during an entire shift. This practice, the lawsuit alleges, violates California’s minimum wage laws. The lawsuit also alleges that Virgin America did not pay overtime wages as required by California law. The lawsuit also alleges that Virgin America did not provide its flight crew with timely meal and rest breaks, in violation of California law.
Today, Senior Vice President Frances Fiorillo addressed the lawsuit in an email to Virgin America’s flight attendants (known within the company as “ITMs” [in-flight teammembers]) and reaffirmed the company’s stance:
As you know, Virgin America’s InFlight pay practices are consistent with other airlines in the airline industry. We believe that we have complied with all applicable laws and we intend to vigorously defend against the lawsuit.
Fiorillo disclosed that the lawsuit has reached the point where the company must share the “names, addresses and telephone numbers of current and former InFlight Teammates on file with ADP” but wanted the flight attendants to be aware that:
…if you are contacted by the lawyers who filed the lawsuit, you are not required to talk to them or give them any information if you don’t want to.
She did go on to mention that it is a flight attendant’s right to talk with them and the company won’t take any adverse action against the employee for doing so.
Similar cases have been brought against other airlines with flight attendants who have operated flights into/out-of California, Matthew Helland who is representing flight attendants for JetBlue stated,
“California law is clear. Employers must pay their employees for all hours worked. Employers cannot pay employees for part of their work day and then pay them nothing for the other hours in the day.”
Just because the company’s pay practices are consistent with the industry does not actually mean they complied with the law. The labor laws, outside of the Railway Labor Act, that Virgin America must abide by are determined by the location in which the employee is working. For Virgin America, most of its flight attendants are based in San Francisco and Los Angeles; and they have a smaller base at New York’s JFK. Those Flight Attendants are covered by the class action as well because California law would cover anyone who worked flights into or out of a California city.
Why should flight attendants contact a lawyer? This could be a game changing lawsuit for flight attendants who operate flights into/out of California and around the country. For years, airlines have skirted paying flight attendants for boarding, delays, training (initial and recurrent), sit times in airports, checking-in an hour before departure, ground time during turns; all times when the flight attendant is working and is on duty. Think of all of the times you’ve been expected to ‘clean’ or ‘tidy’ a plane and you haven’t been getting paid.. that all falls under this lawsuit. Those fired who quit within the last four years are also eligible.
Before critics rain down on me about another “Virgin America themed” article, let me say this: I am a former Virgin America flight attendant. I accepted a buyout offer last year and resigned my position voluntarily through a program the company calls “Career Choice.” Once a year a monetary payout is extended to help you ‘transition’ into another career as long as you resign your current one. As part of my resignation, I was required to sign a contract which included a paragraph about releasing my rights to sue the company for any reason related to my employment (though the validity of this paragraph can be questioned). But in the subparagraph it specifically mentions lawsuits related to “federal, state or local law” which may arise. Coincidence?