(RTTNews) – The US Supreme Court on Thursday turned away Alaska Airlines Inc’s appeal of being legally bound by the employment laws of states where their workers are based. This is the main issue of its legal battle with California-based flight attendants.
The justices did not hear an appeal by Alaska Airlines against a lower court’s ruling that Virgin America, which it acquired in 2018, had to give these flight attendants meal and rest breaks required by California law. Industry groups have said the lower court’s decision will lead to canceled flights and higher ticket prices.
The court also turned away a separate case by trade group Airlines for America challenging the state of Washington’s ability to enforce state employment laws against airlines.
In a statement, Alaska Airlines said it was evaluating how it could comply with California’s strict meal and rest break laws while also following federal guidelines requiring airline crew to perform specific duties.
Airlines for America said in a statement “the lack of a definitive answer from the court does not resolve the conflict between state and federal law … and will result in a patchwork of costly and conflicting state regulations, as at least 19 states have some ok form of meal and rest break laws.” Charles Cooper, a lawyer for a group of flight attendants who sued, said the Supreme Court’s action confirms that a lower court ruling against Virgin was correct. A federal law bars states from adopting measures that affect the prices, routes and services offered by airlines. But the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals last year decided that state wage laws that generally apply to all workers also cover airline employees because they have only an indirect impact on airline services.
The 9th Circuit threw out the Washington state