Lawsuits test NYC power over airline HR policy

A major airline has filed a complaint with the federal government claiming New York City has no say over the airline’s management of its crews. The suit may be a response to the city’s own lawsuit a week before, claiming that the airline punishes its employees for using the sick leave they accrue. The city says the airline’s employment practices are illegal.

New York City accuses airline of illegal practices

The lawsuit filed by New York City (NYC) said American Airlines (AA) violated a relatively recent city law requiring NYC employers to, among other things, provide an hour of leave, up to 40 hours a year, for every 30 hours worked.

The lawsuit says AA instead tags the ground crew’s sick days with disciplinary points, which NYC sees as illegally retaliating against employees for using sick leave.

A recent investigation by the city’s worker protection department claimed that AA’s pay rate for days sick is too low and the airline doesn’t allow accrual of sick leave, demands advance notice and notes from doctors, and doesn’t notify employees of their rights, all violations of city law.

The right of the city’s workers, as well as classes of workers, to be represented to secure their rights is long established in New York state and in NYC.

Airline files its own lawsuit and disputes the city’s claims

AA’s own suit was filed in the federal district that hosts both LaGuardia and JFK airports. It claims New York City’s attempt to force the airline’s hand violates the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause which places with the federal government the power to regulate commerce between states. AA also says the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act also guarantees that The Big Apple has no power over the airline’s human resources department.

The airline also objects that it operates in 30 state and local jurisdictions with their own sick leave rule and that a flight crew passes in and out of several sets of laws on every shift. Finally, AA also says it believes its sick leave policy is generous, and in some cases exceeds that required by NYC’s law.

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