Southwest Airlines has racked up more than $300,000 in labor-related fines so far this year after Arizona workers filed complaints with the state, saying the company retaliated against them for taking their earned sick time.
So far, more than a dozen employees have filed retaliation complaints with the Industrial Commission of Arizona, alleging they were given warning letters for taking their earned sick time.
Some of the complaints are from aircraft maintenance technicians, who belong to a labor union.
The Industrial Commission’s Labor Department has investigated the complaints and has sided with the employees. The department said Southwest Airlines is subject to the Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act, a ballot initiative passed by voters in 2016. The law requires employers to provide paid sick leave and makes it illegal to retaliate against them for using that accrued leave.
Southwest, however, contends that the bargaining agreement between Southwest and the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association is subject to federal labor laws, which the airline contends preempts many state and local laws.
The company told ABC15 in a statement it is appealing the fines.
“We strongly disagree with the Industrial Commission’s application of the law,” the statement said.
In one recent complaint, a Southwest Airlines employee alleges being issued a letter of instruction for using 11 sick days in 12 months. The Industrial Commission considers that retaliation because the employee was given the warning letter within 90 days of taking the earned sick time.
Some of the complaints come from long-time employees.
“Looking at this file, I note the claimant has worked for Southwest for more than 30 years,” Industrial Commission Chairman Dennis Kavanaugh said at a recent meeting.
Another employee worked for the airline for more than 25 years and filed a complaint after receiving a “final letter of warning” for using 27 sick days within 12 months.
Southwest has so far incurred…