Ninth Circuit: The Federal Railway Labor Act Does Not Necessarily Preempt State Leave Laws

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All Employers with AK, AZ, CA, HI, ID, MT, NV, OR, WA, Guam, and Northern Mariana Islands Employees

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August 1, 2018

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In Alaska Airlines v. Shurke, the Ninth Circuit stated that because an employee’s state law claim did not arise entirely from or require interpretation of the employee’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the employee’s Washington Family Care Act (WFCA) claim was not preempted.

There, a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines requested to use vacation leave to care for a sick child, because she had used all of her sick leave available under an applicable CBA.  When Alaska Airlines denied her vacation request, the employee filed an administrative complaint with the Washington Department of Labor, stating that the WFCA allows employees to use paid time off to care for a sick family member, if the employee is entitled to paid time off under the terms of a CBA. Alaska Airlines claimed that the employee had to use the CBA’s grievance procedure, rather than the state’s administrative complaint process, in accordance with the federal Railway Labor Act (RLA).

The Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, stated that the RLA preemption did not apply, because the employee’s claim invoked a law applicable to all state workers—including those who are not covered by a CBA.  Further, although the claim referenced the employee’s CBA, it did not dispute any of the terms or conditions established by the CBA.

Action Items

  1. Have leave policies and procedures reviewed for compliance with this ruling.
  2. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

© 2018 ManagEase

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