The class action lawsuit Bernstein et al v. Virgin America, Inc. et al, which was initially filed in May 2015 in the U.S. District Court California Northern District, argued that Virgin violated numerous California wages laws for:
- Failing to pay its flight attendants for all the time spent before, after and between flights
- Writing up incident reports
- Time spent in training and for undergoing required drug tests
- Not allowing flight attendants to take meal or rest breaks
- Not paying them overtime and minimum wages
- Not providing accurate wage statements.
Brief Timeline: Julia Bernstein v. Virgin America et al
2015: The workers sued in 2015 alleging a myriad of California wage and hour violations, stemming from a lawsuit filed in state court in 2015 that Virgin later removed to federal court. Named plaintiff Julia Bernstein later added Alaska Airlines as a defendant after Virgin merged into that company, and two other named plaintiffs also joined.
2018: Judge Tigar granted the flight attendants' summary judgment bid, leading to the $77 million award that Virgin appealed in 2019.
2019: The flight attendants were awarded about $77 million in damages and penalties, but Virgin America and Alaska Airlines, now both a part of Alaska Air Group, appealed the award to the Ninth Circuit seeking a 75 percent reduction. Law360 reported that the appeals court upheld the win on most of the claims but overturned the minimum wage, payment for each hour worked and subsequent PAGA penalties, meaning the amount the airlines owed for PAGA penalties needed to be reevaluated. The airlines took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
July 2022: The high court denied the airlines' petition to take another look at the award amount.
December 2022: The workers’ request to amend the proposed judgment to reduce the initial $77 million award by 25 percent was granted by Judge Tigar.
The case is Bernstein et al. v. Virgin America Inc. et al., case number 4:15-cv-02277, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
California Labor Code – Wages Laws
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The California Labor Code also requires employers to provide “an accurate itemized wage statement” showing gross wages, total hours worked, net wages earned, and all applicable hourly rates in effect during the pay period and the corresponding number of hours worked at each hourly rate, among other things. Virgin admitted that its wage statements did not show the effective hourly rate of pay for each hour of duty or the actual number of hours worked.