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Virgin, Alaska Air Workers Win Nearly $31 Million in Wage Suit

Jan. 24, 2023, 9:21 PM

Virgin America Inc. and Alaska Airlines Inc. flight attendants will receive almost $31 million after a federal district judge reevaluated the proper penalties in their wage-and-hour case following a trip to the Ninth Circuit.

Virgin and Alaska, both part of Alaska Air Group Inc., are on the hook for nearly $12.3 million in penalties under a California law that deputizes workers to recover for employment violations, the US District Court for the Northern District of California said Tuesday. That figure represents a significant 25% reduction from the pre-appeal award, but still less than the 75% reduction the airlines sought on remand.

Workers filed a class action approximately a decade ago accusing Virgin and Alaska of numerous employment law violations, including failing to pay them for all hours worked, ensure they made minimum wage, pay overtime premiums, and provide proper wage statements.

The flight attendants originally won approximately $77 million in damages and penalties. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the bulk of Judge Jon S. Tigar’s 2019 order, but overturned other portions, necessitating a new calculation of how much the airlines owed. The US Supreme Court in 2022 rejected Virgin and Alaska’s bid to further reduce the award.

The almost $12.3 million in Private Attorneys General Act penalties will mostly go to the state. The law directs that 75% of any PAGA award goes to the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency, with the remaining 25%—nearly $3.1 million in this case—going to the aggrieved workers.

In addition to the PAGA payment, the almost $31 million total recovery includes more than $6.3 million in damages and restitution for overtime failures and more than $5.1 million more in interest for those claims. Nearly $601,400 is allocated to meal and rest period claims, almost $4.4 million for wage statement failures, and more than $2.2 million is dedicated to waiting time penalties.

The workers haven’t submitted an estimate of their updated attorneys’ fees and court costs to Tigar yet.

Miller Shah LLP, Olivier & Schreiber LLP, and Kosinski & Thiagaraj LLP represent the workers. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP represents Virgin and Alaska.

The case is Bernstein v. Virgin Am. Inc., N.D. Cal., No. 4:15-cv-02277, order filed 1/24/23.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer Bennett in Washington at jbennett@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Maya Earls at mearls@bloomberglaw.com