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Attorney General William Tong

05/20/2020

Attorney General Tong Files Brief in Support of Paid Sick Leave for Airline Workers

Nineteen Attorneys General Join Brief in Support of Washington State’s Paid Sick Leave Law

(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong joined a coalition of 19 attorneys general filing an amicus brief in support of paid sick leave for airline flight crew workers, benefits that the coalition argue are particularly important to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The brief, filed yesterday in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, supports the State of Washington against a challenge by the Air Transport Association of America d/b/a Airlines for America to the state’s paid sick leave law that requires employers to allow workers to take sick leave without fear of discipline.

“Airline workers who are ill must be allowed to safely recover at home. This is vital not only for their own health, but for the health and safety of the flying public and to control the spread of COVID-19. Staying home when sick is a responsible and necessary precaution. Sick leave laws that protect workers from discipline and termination are basic common sense and clearly legal,” said Attorney General Tong.

According to the brief, Washington’s paid sick leave law prohibits a practice used in the airline industry by which flight attendants and pilots who miss work, even due to illness, receive “points” that can lead to discipline or termination. The attorneys general write that Washington’s law advances important public health objectives by allowing flight crew who fall ill to fully recuperate before returning to work. This benefit is particularly important in the airline industry because, as recent experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrate, commercial air travel can amplify the rapid spread of infectious disease. For example, during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, people working while sick infected seven million individuals across the globe and the virus spread rapidly due to air travel.

The attorneys general write that Washington’s sick leave law does not substantially burden the free flow of goods and services or contribute significantly to flight delays, as Airlines for America argues in its lawsuit. The states urge the appeals court to affirm a lower court decision that found Washington’s paid sick leave law to be legal.

This brief was led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and joined by California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Virginia.

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