Southwest Wants Supreme Court to Block Overtime Lawsuit


Reuters reports the carrier wants the highest court in the country to overturn a U.S. Court of Appeals decision which could open the door for lawsuits from workers and supervisors over alleged unpaid overtime.


Lawsuit Stems from Supervisors Claiming Alleged Overtime Pay

The original lawsuit against Southwest came from a supervisor in luggage handling, claiming the carrier owed them overtime pay. In a decision from the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, judges decided in favor of the worker, claiming handlers were directly involved with “interstate commerce.”


In most employee disputes, Federal Aviation Administration regulations require workers and companies to settle claims in arbitration. However, there is a narrow window of exemptions for a certain group of workers, including “seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.”


Attorneys for the plaintiff claimed that because the workers were directly handling luggage on aircraft coming from out of state and those leaving the state, they were involved in interstate commerce and should qualify for the exemption. Defense attorneys called that view a “sweeping interpretation” of the current regulations.


In questioning, the court focused on the definition of a worker involved in “interstate commerce.” While Judge Neil Gorsuch considered the notion that those loading cargo bound for another state met the definition, he also wanted it to be limited to those working directly in the supply chain. For example, the associate justice did not want to imply that last-mile delivery drivers – such as those working for Amazon – or those working on a website involved in national sales were involved in “interstate commerce.”


There is no timeline for the Supreme Court to issue an opinion on the matter.


Opinion Could Conflict with Previous Appeals Court Decision

If the Supreme Court decides to rule in favor of the baggage supervisors, it could upturn a previous decision made in a case against Lufthansa. In the German carrier’s case, the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said that baggage supervisors were outside of the definition of those working in “interstate commerce.”

A win for Southwest would continue a winning streak in courts where employees have challenged company policy. An October 2021 decision upheld the Dallas-based carrier’s deadline for employees to be inoculated against the virus causing COVID-19, dismissing the Southwest Airlines’ Pilots Association claims it should be negotiated over with the union.

Source: frugal travel guy

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