American Airlines is facing a lawsuit from the city for allegedly retaliating against employees who attempted to take paid sick leave.
A workplace investigation carried out by the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection found that the airline has been assigning "disciplinary points" to ground crew workers for each sick day they use. The agency also alleges that American Airlines failed to pay sick leave at the required rate, prevented employees from accessing accrued sick leave, and required advance notice and medical documentation in violation of the law.
Passed in 2014, the city's Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law mandates that companies with at least five employees who work more than 80 hours per year offer paid sick leave. The law requires one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with a limit of 40 hours of sick leave per calendar year. Employers may ask for documentation for more than three consecutive missed workdays, but are barred from requiring that workers specify the reason for using sick leave.
The investigation into American Airlines found the employer was routinely flouting the protections. A lawsuit filed with the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearing seeks $375,000 in restitution for more than 750 ground crew workers, including agents, representatives, fleet service and mechanical employees.
"Workers in major transportation hubs where thousands of people pass through everyday should not have to choose between going into work sick or getting in trouble for exercising their right to take a sick day,” said Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Commissioner Lorelei Salas.
The statement continued, “American Airlines has violated their ground crew’s rights by engaging in practices that make workers afraid to exercise their rights because they will be disciplined for using a sick day. Not only are these practices illegal, but it is disappointing when an employer puts business above their own employees’ health."
The city agency—formerly known as the Department of Consumer Affairs—says they've received over 1,800 complaints about paid sick leave violations since the law went into effect. All but 100 of those investigations have been closed, and the city has obtained resolutions requiring more than $10 million in combined fines and restitution for roughly 32,000 workers.
In response to the suit, a spokesperson for American Airlines provided Gothamist with the following comment: "American Airlines employees enjoy generous sick leave and benefits, including those set by union contracts with terms that are often more generous than required by the New York law. American will continue to work to make sure its team members have generous health and wellness benefits."
Employees who believe their bosses may be violating the paid sick leave law can register a complaint here.