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Access to State Sick Leave Justified for Airline Crews, Brief Says

May 21, 2020, 2:16 PM

The ability for airline flight crews to access state paid sick leave was supported by attorneys general of 18 states and the District of Columbia in a brief filed May 18 with a federal appeals court.

Ensuring that paid sick leave is available to the workers is in the best interest of states and public-health safety, particularly as a way to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease Covid-19, the coalition said.

The amicus brief encouraged the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a lower-court ruling that the Washington paid sick-leave law is legal and applies to airline employees.

An airline trade group claimed Washington’s paid sick-leave law should not apply to pilots and flight attendants who work outside the state. The uniformity of air-carrier regulations is of national importance, the group said, noting that the power of states to pass laws affecting interstate commerce is constitutionally limited.

Washington’s paid sick-leave law prohibits an airline-industry practice that could lead to the discipline or termination of pilots and flight attendants who miss work, such as for an illness, the attorneys general said in the brief.

Airline employees deserve the same access to paid sick leave as other Washington-based workers, the brief said, noting that the state’s paid sick-leave law preserves the public health by ensuring that infectious diseases are not spread by air travel, the brief said.

The trade group’s claim that states do not have a legitimate interest in stopping the spread of infectious diseases on airplanes “is plainly wrong,” the brief said. “States have a compelling interest in protecting the health and welfare of their workers and their residents,” it said.

With diseases such as Covid-19, workers must be able to stay home and recover to ensure the health and safety of their families, co-workers, and the public, the brief said.

Additionally, the state’s sick-leave law “does not substantially burden the free flow of goods and services or contribute significantly to flight delays,” the brief said.

The brief was filed by attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

Arizona, California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia, and two dozen municipalities have enacted paid sick-leave laws similar to Washington’s, the brief said.

The case is Air Transport Association of America v. Sacks, 9th Cir., No. 19-35-937, brief filed 5/18/20

To contact the reporter on this story: Christine Pulfrey in Washington at cpulfrey@bloombergtax.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Trimarchi at mtrimarchi@bloombergtax.com

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