Published on:

American Airlines Sued By Baggage Handlers for Alleged Unpaid Overtime

Scheduling employees for shifts and using a time card system so they can punch in when they begin work and punch out right before they leave is a perfectly valid method of tracking the amount of time workers spend on the job, but only if the timecards are used properly.

According to a recent proposed class action wage and hour lawsuit against American Airlines, the largest airline company in the world, the company allegedly manipulated its time card system to cheat employees out of earned wages. The proposed class action was filed by two current employees of American Airlines on behalf of all employees who work as clerks for the huge airline. Clerks are responsible for loading baggage onto departing planes and unloading baggage from arriving planes, operating towlines to pull aircraft into and out of hangars, in addition to other duties related to departure and arrival. None of these responsibilities allegedly qualify them for the overtime exemption provided by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which means they are entitled to receive one and one-half times their normal hourly rate of pay for all the overtime they work.

The wage and hour lawsuit alleges American Airlines configures its time clocks so that employees are credited with working less time than they actually work. Employees are allegedly pressured to work before the beginning of their shift, after the end of their shift, and through unpaid meal and rest breaks. But even if a worker clocks in to work prior to the beginning of her scheduled shift, the airline allegedly pays her only for her scheduled shift.

The lawsuit further alleged that American Airlines allows clerks to trade shifts with each other, but if a trade results in one or more workers working more than 40 hours in a week, the airline allegedly only paid them their normal hourly rate for all the time they spent working.

When the company did recognize that an employee had worked overtime, it allegedly offered them paid time off instead of the federal-mandated overtime compensation of one and one-half times their normal hourly wage. Because employees only get paid straight time for their paid time off, the alleged practice violates the federal FLSA. The lawsuit also alleges managers encouraged employees to take the paid time off instead of the overtime compensation.

The proposed class action lawsuit alleges violations of the FLSA as well as New Jersey Wage and Hour Law. It is seeking compensation for unpaid wages, punitive damages, liquidated damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, as well as injunctive relieve to forbid American Airlines from ever again participating in the alleged illegal employment practices.

The two named plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit filed it on behalf of themselves and 5,000 other American Airlines employees who work as clerks at more than 50 different airports all over the country. Since they’re also claiming damages under the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law, there will probably be a national class and a subclass of employees who worked at airports located in New Jersey.

The Chicago class action and employment law attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have three decades of experience fighting to help employees who are victims of wage, overtime and tip theft by their employers. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers who concentrate on prosecuting state and nationwide class action lawsuits. Our attorneys work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Arlington Heights and Palatine. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.

Our Schaumburg and Bartlett overtime and employment lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers mis-classify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.

The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago and Oak Brook, and represents clients throughout the country who have unpaid overtime and other employment right claims.