DENVER (KDVR) — In their fight to use state-mandated sick leave protections, unionized Southwest flight attendants are taking their employer and the state of Colorado to court.
In a lawsuit filed on Monday, the Transport Workers Union of America’s Local 556 claims Colorado reached a backdoor agreement that exempts Southwest from the law — all without any airline employees present.
“Colorado’s hard-fought legislative protections for workers, consumers, tenants, the environment and the general public are worthless if powerful corporations can extract from the executive branch sweeping backroom settlements that exempt those corporations from Colorado law,” the union claims in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit filed Monday names Gov. Jared Polis and Southwest Airlines as defendants, along with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and its Division of Labor Standards and Statistics.
Southwest accused of ‘retaliatory’ sick leave system
As first reported by CPR News, the flight attendants’ union claims Southwest violated dozens of labor laws.
According to the lawsuit, Southwest flight attendants had been fighting to use protections under the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, which mandates minimum sick leave for nearly all employees.
The lawsuit claims Southwest defied the law by, “among other things, threatening to fire workers who took time off to care for a sick child, imposing a retaliatory ‘points’ system that threatens workers if they use the six days of sick leave Colorado requires them to provide, and even requiring workers to get a note from Southwest’s doctor if they want to be excused for sick leave.”
Southwest was appealing a state citation for such labor violations when it reached a settlement with the state that exempted the airline from the law, according to the lawsuit. That happened in July.
The union asks a Denver district judge to declare the settlement invalid and that Southwest’s unionized flight attendants are entitled to the sick-leave protections under state law.
Southwest points to ‘legislative intent’ of sick leave law
The union represents thousands of Southwest flight attendants in Colorado, according to the complaint. The law firm Towards Justice is representing the union workers.
Southwest Airlines released this statement in response to the claims:
Southwest Airlines is pleased to have resolved two lawsuits it filed against the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE), confirming the airline’s continued compliance with the legislative intent of the state’s sick leave laws in response to prior allegations of violations of Colorado’s Healthy Families and Workplaces Act by the CDLE.
As one of Colorado’s largest employers, Southwest continues to support its People with industry-leading benefits including providing sick leave that is above and beyond what is required under state and local leave laws, while also ensuring the airline can provide unmatched Hospitality to its Customers.Southwest Airlines
FOX31 has reached out to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment for comment.