Paid Sick Leave Law Survives Court Challenge

On October 11, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington decided a lawsuit in favor of Washington’s paid sick leave law. The law applies to workers based in the state, including airline workers. It guarantees that those workers earn paid sick leave, and prohibits employers from requesting medical verification of illness, disciplining workers when they take sick leave, or preventing employees from using leave in one-hour increments.

The Plaintiff in the case was an organization representing several airlines, Airlines for America, which argued that the Washington law was preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act and violates the Constitution’s Dormant Commerce Clause, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, because the law conflicts with sick leave laws in other states, creating additional burdens on the airlines and causing consumer prices to rise. In addition, they argued that the Washington law will increase flight crew absences and create flight delays, cancellations, and additional costs.

The court noted that many provisions of the law can be found in collective bargaining agreements that the airlines have already agreed to, and that the airlines failed to show that following the law created additional administrative or financial burdens, such as increased flight delays. Accordingly, the court ruled that the benefits provided under the Washington law outweighed any impact to interstate commerce, that the law applied only to workers with strong ties to the state, and that the law did not significantly impact airline services or prices.

This case provides an example to employers that state paid sick leave law can survive constitutional challenges and should be considered when drafting sick leave policies.

Washington Paid Sick Leave Law »