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The Supreme Court dismisses Alaska Airlines’ appeal in an employment dispute



(Reuters) – The US Supreme Court on Thursday rejected Alaska Airlines Inc.’s challenge to be bound by the laws of states where its workers are based, the central issue in its legal battle with California-based flight attendants.

The judges declined to hear an appeal from Alaska Airlines of a lower court decision that Virgin America, which it acquired in 2018, had to provide these flight attendants with meal and rest breaks required by California law. Industry groups have said that the lower court’s decision will lead to canceled flights and higher fares.

The court also dismissed a separate case from the Airlines for America trade group, which challenged the state of Washington̵

7;s ability to enforce state employment laws against airlines.

Alaska Airlines, Airlines for America and lawyers for a group of Virgin flight attendants who sued the company did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A federal law prevents states from taking measures that affect the prices, routes and services offered by airlines. But the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that state payroll laws that generally apply to all workers also cover airline employees because they only have an indirect impact on airlines’ services.

The 9th Circuit dropped the lawsuit in Washington state a few days later, citing its verdict in Virginia’s case.

Alaska Airlines in its petition to the Supreme Court to hear its appeal said that federal law was designed to introduce a uniform nationwide standard for airlines to follow. Forcing airlines to give California-based flight attendants breaks while in the air would disrupt takeoffs and landings, “leaving planes stranded on runways at unpredictable times and causing cascading delays at airports across the country,” the airline said.


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