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Delta Airlines Settles with Flight Attendants for $16M

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Delta Airlines and its flight attendants have settled a California wages lawsuit going back to 2015.

Los Angeles, CAAfter almost a decade, Delta Airlines has reached an agreement with its flight attendants. The workers told a California federal judge that a nearly $16 million settlement, which will end their California Labor Code and Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claims, should be approved because that amount will give California-based Delta flight attendants almost full reimbursement.

Delta’s policy has not paid its flight attendants for all hours worked. Rather, its flight attendants were only paid for the time after a flight leaves the departure gate until it arrives at the destination gate, but not for the work performed before and after the flight. The lawsuit claims that Delta violated California state law by failing to pay its employees minimum wage for all hours worked during their employment for work performed in the state of California, and other wages violations.

Delta’s “work rules” comprise four pay structures:

a. “Flight Pay,” which pays flight attendants for all hours between the time a flight pushes out from the departure gate and the time it pulls into the destination gate;
b. “Duty Period Credit Pay,” which pays flight attendants for half their hours worked;
c. “Duty Period Average,” which pays flight attendants for 4.75 hours of work for each “duty period” during a rotation;
d. “Trip Pay Credit,” in which Delta credits the flight attendant with one hour of pay for every 3.5 hours they are away from their base.

Under the primary “Flight Pay” formula, flight attendants are paid a set hourly rate from the time an aircraft “blocks out,” or leaves the gate, until it “blocks in” at the destination. Under this pay scheme, Plaintiff and Class Members are not paid for, among other things, work performed at the airport before or after their flight, for time spent onboard the aircraft before the doors are closed, or for time spent at the airport between flights. Additionally, if a flight is delayed prior to boarding, flight attendants paid under the Flight Pay formula are not paid for time spent waiting. Under this formula, flight attendants are rarely paid for all hours worked – after all, whose flight hasn’t been delayed?

The “Duty Period Credit Pay” formula kicks in when the expected duty period contains more than twice the number of flight hours. Under this formula, flight attendants are “credited with 1 hour of flight pay for every 2 hours on duty.” In other words, it only pays flight attendants for half their hours worked. Time spent on standby in an airport is typically credited under the Duty Period formula. And flight attendants are not paid for all hours worked because it pays a flat 4.75 hours average regardless of the number of hours actually worked.

Same goes for the “Trip Pay”: it violates minimum wage laws because it does not identify which hours are paid or unpaid.

Plaintiff Dev Anand Oman was a Delta Airlines flight attendant from 1999 through September 10, 2014, according to court documents. Although he resides in New York, Oman regularly worked on flights arriving into and departing from California’s international airports.

Delta Flight Attendant Wages TimeLine

2015: Plaintiff Dev Anand Oman filed a lawsuit on behalf of flight attendants employed by Delta Air Lines in California federal court alleging minimum wage and wage statement violations and waiting time penalties.

2017: The airline was granted summary judgment on its argument that Delta flight attendants spend most of their time in federal airspace, rendering the majority of state law claims irrelevant.

April 2022: Delta Air Lines said it will start paying flight attendants during boarding (which typically takes 30-50 minutes), becoming the first U.S. carrier to do so.

June 2022: The carrier would begin paying its 26,000 flight attendants during boarding at half their usual hourly rate. “Our new boarding pay component – an industry first – further recognizes how important your role is on board to ensuring a welcoming, safe and on-time start to each flight and for each customer,” the company said in a memo to flight attendants.

Oct 2022: Delta revises its wage statements.

Dec 2023: Delta faces a separate class action lawsuit claiming that it does not pay overtime to customer service employees who work extra time during a work period after swapping shifts with colleagues. The suit involves reservation and sales representatives who perform customer service duties from call center locations across the U.S. and tower coordinators who work at Delta’s eight hubs across the country.

Apr 2024: The airline boosts pay for flight attendants and ground workers by 5%, raises the minimum wage for U.S. workers to $19 per hour, and sets aside money for merit raises, affecting over 80,000 employees.

July 2024: U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick partly granted the workers a win on their PAGA claims for civil penalties and for pay periods up to Sept. 1, 2018. While the judge had found Delta had a good-faith defense for violations alleged to have occurred before Jan. 10, 2022, he granted the workers a win on wage statement violations occurring after that, records showed, reported Law360.

Sept 2024: In a certification decision, Judge Orrick granted class status to 1,495 Delta flight attendants who were based at a California airport at any time from Jan. 10, 2022, through Oct. 7, 2022, and did not participate in the airline's enhanced retirement or voluntary opt-out programs.

The case is Oman et al. v. Delta Air Lines Inc., case number 3:15-cv-00131, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.


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