American Airlines Workers Seek Class Cert. in Wage Fight

Airport-based employees of American Airlines asked a California federal court to certify class claims that the airline engaged in unfair business practices by underpaying workers for off-clock times they spent at airports.

In this weeks motion, workers argued that up to 4,000 current and former airport-based employees endured the same companywide pay policies that they called unfair business practices under the California Business and Professions Code.

"Plaintiffs and the other workers were all treated in similar fashion," the motion said. "Since all have been treated in similar fashion … certification is appropriate."

Monday's motion calls for the creation and certification of a class of all current and former nonovertime-exempt California-based American employees, minus pilots and flight crew, from November 2015.

The group encompasses employees who say they were unfairly deprived of wages and overtime pay for time they spent at airports but before clocking in and after clocking out.

According to the employees, whenever workers were on airport grounds, the airline required them to maintain a sense of anti-terroristic vigilance under a companywide "see something say something" regime.

"While [American Airlines] operates in a highly competitive, public arena … with ever-present threats of terrorism," the workers said, "workers must be protected, provided on-duty meal periods and compensated … for all hours under the control of the employer, doing the bidding of [American Airlines]."

The workers also told the court that all prospective class members were subject to a companywide policy that saw American round down their paychecks when workers clocked out a few minutes after the end of their shifts, but fail to round pay up when employees clocked in late.

According to the workers, a selection of hundreds of employee punch cards indicated that over 95% of prospective class members saw their pay discounted during the proposed class period because of the lopsided, and what they called illegal, "grace time" policy.

The workers also asked for the certification of an additional four subclasses of workers who were subjected to more narrowly tailored company policies.

One proposed subclass comprises workers who said the company improperly suspended a policy under which it paid uniformed employees a weekly sum to compensate them for uniform maintenance costs from 2015 to 2018, a suspension they said violated California Labor Code requirements to reimburse workers for uniform costs.

Another said the company discouraged workers from taking sick leave during busy business periods by enforcing a policy under which employees were assigned "points" toward disciplinary action when they called in sick.

The smallest class period covers employees who worked overtime for the two days before a collective bargaining agreement between the airline and the Passenger Service Employee Association took effect.

Last July, U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez tossed the bulk of the workers' overtime claims, holding that the Railway Labor Act exempts airline employees who are covered by CBAs from federal and state overtime pay requirements.

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