Flight Attendant Class Action Lawsuit Against United Airlines Has Been Certified

One of the last things I’d ever want in professional life is to be a California employer. I’ve had to fill out insurance applications at work that ask as a standalone question, “do you have any employees based in California?”

I lived in California as a teenager and my family was in the car business there. A mechanic in their repair shop once cheated on his wife. She confronted him, when she learned he’d gotten an STD. So he went full on Shaggy Defense claiming to have gotten it at work – from a spider bite while fixing a car.

It didn’t matter that’s not how STDs work. They’re called sexually transmitted for a reason. Since he was fully committed to the story with his wife, he applied for workers comp. This being California, he got it. The state government helped keep his marriage together.

United Airlines just lost a ruling before a federal judge in California, certifying a class action lawsuit by flight attendants who claim information is missing off of their pay stubs – even though the information is provided to them in a separate document.

  • United said that it doesn’t pay flight attendants hourly – they have a much more complicated pay formula that includes bidding and credits for time worked – so California’s rule requiring employers to “list hour rates” on pay stubs doesn’t apply and would be confusing in any case. The judge said sure that’s true but the law still applies.

    “The court acknowledges that defendant’s pay scheme is complex, and that complying with [the labor code’s] requirements may not be straightforward,” the order says. “But that complication does not enable the court to disregard the plain language of [the statute].”

  • United argued that they give flight attendants all of the information (‘pay advice’ and a monthly pay register). But the judge ruled it all has to be in the statement accompany each pay cycle “to help employees determine if they have been properly compensated” even – of course – while acknowledging that United breaking down pay into an hourly wage would be more confusing than helpful.

  • United was criticized by the judge because its wage statement fails to list the employer’s name.

  • United had previously argued that the flight attendants couldn’t sue under California law when they work primarily outside of California, and United isn’t based there. California’s Supreme Court says flight attendants based in California can sue. Any flight attendant based in California who didn’t work a majority of their time in a different state since August 6, 2014 will be included in the class. Of course California also argues it can tax non-residents who have never entered the state if their income has a California nexus.

United did get the claim thrown out that they violated the law by listing a P.O. box rather than a physical address on flight attendant wage statements. JetBlue faces a similar lawsuit in California.

Someone sued United for sending him text messages to help him not miss his flight so you really can sue for anything. And more proof that the rest of the country is becoming more like California, the EEOC sued United during the pandemic for not letting an alcohol pilot fly without going to AA first.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Note to self.
    Do not fly to California on United.
    My sky bartender may be in a pissy mood and sue me.

  2. I mean, this seemingly pointless case aside, of course most people would dread being an employer in a state that favors employees.

  3. It just continues: Americans are proud of being ignorant and willing to go public with it.

  4. If I had a lawyer who was so incompetent as to lose a case (and appeal) to so unscientific a theory as someone got a sexually transmitted disease from a spider bite, I’d be suing them for malpractice and doing everything I could to get them disbarred.

    Please tell me you didn’t have some family member for a lawyer as a favor to your father’s sister’s husband’s cousin…

  5. California’s Supreme Court says flight attendants based in California can sue. Any flight attendant based in California who didn’t work a majority of their time in a different state since August 6, 2014 will be included in the class.

    I assume that UA, AA, WN, B6 will be changing all their bases OUT of California So these FA will have a home base of Washington State with no state income tax and then because they are “residents” of California they will have to pay 9% income tax to the state, but they can not get credit for paying taxes to other states and they will have to pay quarterly estimates to the State of CA.
    Guess they FA really fixed UA …..

  6. STDs as an example for this article is utterly ridiculous. California is one of the few states that protects and leads employee rights. In this case UAL continues to hide more than hourly rates as they continue reap the benefits of free taxpayer money while slashing service. Get a grip!

  7. Until conservatives stop supporting cops who enforce leftist laws and leftist court orders, nothing will change. If conservatives stop supporting the police and realized leftist laws and court orders can’t be enforced if enforcers are not allowed to do so by 130 million conservatives, all this ridiculousness won’t apply to conservatives or companies where they have an ownership stake in.

    This is exactly what bureaucracy is. This is what the legal system is. It’s always about enforcing arbitrary and trivial rules and laws that people don’t consent to and don’t support. Unfortunately, conservative leaders don’t point out the direct cause: those who enforce it.

  8. @Jackson Waterson
    Get a grip Jackass. You have posted the same screed about cops and conservatives several times now. In this diatribe you forgot the FA’s. Can’t you come up with something original or at least different. Jesus, man you are so boring, I think
    you should move to Russia.

  9. Don’t we already have the problem of Progressive prosecutors refusing to uphold what they regard as fascist/conservative laws? Sorry, but each level of law enforcement /government has a role to play, and just like we don’t need prosecutors nullifying duly passed laws, we don’t need cops picking and choosing who to listen to when asked to enforce those laws. You want to change the law, we have ways of doing that. You don’t want to play your role, you can find another job. No one person gets to be judge, jury, and executioner – or rather, you don’t want to live in a society where that exists, unless you’re top of the heap.

  10. Jackson Waterson sounds like a good name for a bot. Kind of like the name of suspicious reviewers on Amazon.

  11. Seems like everytime an article that features flight attendants the flying a** h**** come out from under a rock. That said, being on the side of the employees used to be the American way. For most flying royalty, (lower case r) they side with the employer. Ignorant the average business travel is not. Pretentious, very much so.

  12. If the writer could actually see a flight attendant check stub and realize how hard it is to figure out if it’s accurate, he would be on the flight attendant side of this issue.

  13. Of course California is an employee friendly state I should known I live here. If they weren’t who else would our state government suck tax money from? The Rich? Nah they give to political campaigns. The undocumented? Wrong again they get government services. Working class? Yup!! To poor to contribute mass amounts to political campaigns for tax breaks, and two rich to receive state benefits! We the middle class get gouged for every last penny in taxes here in California. .

  14. I don’t know about this, but FA’s should have an easier way to figure out if their pay is correct. The craziest pay system and documentation methods ever! Nearly impossible to track.

  15. Besides not being paid for all our duty time AT WORK, ON AN AIRPLANE, the Railway Labor Act (which was expanded to cover airline crews), labor union contracts, in concert with employer work rules, make it difficult to track wage accuracy. Besides duty hours, there is premium pay for working challenging roles (pursers, language speakers, galley,) and incentives for working beyond a normal schedule, etc. But suing because the company address isn’t on the check is a bit punitive.

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