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Virgin, Alaska Flight Attendants Win $77M in Wage Class Suit

Jan. 16, 2019, 10:59 PM

Virgin America Inc. and Alaska Airlines Inc. must pay $77 million to a class of flight attendants who alleged a number of California wage violations including that they didn’t receive pay for all of their hours or breaks required by state law, a federal judge ordered Jan. 16.

The class of 1,400 flight attendants won summary judgment on liability in January 2017. Determination of the amount they were owed wasn’t part of that ruling. The flight attendants also alleged they weren’t paid all overtime and didn’t receive accurate wage statements.

The airlines tried unsuccessfully to argue that federal deregulation preempted the state law claims and that the flight attendants improperly asserted claims under California’s worker-friendly laws that arose not in that state but in other parts of the world.

They were able to get the court to dismiss the flight attendants’ claims that they should be reimbursed for passport expenses under a San Francisco law because they lived and trained outside the city. But other claims proceeded.

The $77 million award includes damages, restitution and penalties. Judge Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California also ordered the companies to pay $3,550 in interest on the judgment for each day since the October 2018 deadline for the flight attendants to file their accounting of the amount owed.

Both companies are subsidiaries of Alaska Air Group Inc.

Olivier Schreiber & Chao LLP, Kosinski + Thiagaraj LLP, and Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller And Shah LLP represent the flight attendants.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP represents the airlines.

The case is Bernstein v. Virgin America, Inc., N.D. Cal., No. 15-cv-02277, 1/16/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at; Steven Patrick at