Notable Wage & Hour Rulings in Aviation

Airline Wage and Hour

Airline industry workers face a host of unusual circumstances, from undergoing security screening to regularly working in multiple jurisdictions. 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.

Here are some of the most recent decisions from the airline industry as mentioned by Law360:

Akal Security Inc. transports immigrant detainees and enlists security officers on those flights to maintain safety. The case centered on so-called empty return legs, in which officers, not needing to supervise detainees, can sleep, play video games or watch TV.

Although the officers were generally paid overtime for those return flights, the company deducted one hour’s pay for meal breaks when flights lasted longer than 90 minutes – an action the panel ruled violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.

One interesting piece to this decision was that the majority of opinion placed the burden of proof on Akal to show that a meal break was taken.

In addition, the 9th Circuit ruled that TSA security checks are not company time.

Whether screenings constitute compensable work time is standard wage and hour litigation fare, but a case brought by a worker for the Admirals Club in LA International Airport concerned a federally mandated Transportation Safety Administration security check.

In Cazares v. Host International Inc., the Ninth Circuit made a critical distinction between security checks required by the federal government and those mandated by a private employer, said Nendel-Flores, the Clark Hill attorney.

What employers should take away from this case: Don’t do automatic deductions and have employees document their meal periods.

As Nendel-Flores said, “I think the biggest theme of this case is that doing auto deducts for meal periods is just fraught with risk. Employers should seriously consider not doing that.”

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