Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Peter A. Hatch today announced a settlement agreement with Southwest Airlines to resolve violations of the NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law. The settlement requires Southwest to rehire a member of the ground crew who was unlawfully fired for using sick leave and pay him $15,903.60 in backpay and restitution. The City also put Southwest on notice to bring their sick leave policy into compliance with the City’s Law or risk further investigation.
“In New York City, paid safe and sick leave isn’t just nice to have – it’s the law,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Sick leave is vital to keeping its workers—and customers—healthy and safe. I thank the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection for getting this employee back to work and for protecting the rights of employees across our city. Southwest Airlines: you’re on notice.”
“Our goal in this case was to compel Southwest to reinstate this worker with backpay. But, in addition, we put Southwest on notice that they must correct their sick leave policy or we will investigate their overall compliance with the City’s Law,” said DCWP Commissioner Peter A. Hatch. “It’s bad enough to deny a worker their right to sick leave but to fire them for using it— during a global pandemic—is unacceptable. We urge any other Southwest ground crew worker who has been denied their leave to file a complaint with us—even if they wish to do so anonymously.”
In May, DCWP received a complaint from a ramp agent at LaGuardia Airport who had been fired by Southwest for accruing too many disciplinary points after using sick leave. Under the NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law, workers are entitled to use their accrued leave and it is illegal to retaliate against a worker for using that leave. DCWP fast tracked the retaliation case to resolve it as quickly as possible for the worker. Under the settlement, Southwest is required to—and has already— reinstated the worker and must pay him $15,903.60 in restitution, including lost wages and benefits. The worker, who has worked for Southwest since 2015, is a member of the Transport Workers Union (TWU).
Under the NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law, employers with five or more employees and employers of domestic workers in New York City must provide paid safe and sick leave to employees. Employers with fewer than five employees and a net income of $ 1 million or more, and employers with between five and 99 employees must provide 40 hours of paid leave. Employers with 100 or more employees must provide up to 56 hours of paid leave. Employers with fewer than five employees and a net income of less than $1 million must provide unpaid safe and sick leave. Safe and sick leave is accrued at a rate of one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, and begins on the employee’s first day of employment. Employers of five or more employees who do not front-load safe and sick leave on the first day of a new calendar year must allow employees to carry over up to 40 or 56 hours of unused safe and sick leave from one calendar year to the new calendar year, depending on the size of the employer.
DCWP’s case was handled by Senior Enforcement Counsel Emily Hoffman under the supervision of Litigation Director Claudia Henriquez of DCWP’s Office of Labor Policy & Standards, which is led by Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Holt.
Employers and employees can visit nyc.gov/workers or call 311 (212-NEW-YORK outside NYC) for more information about the NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law, including the required new Notice of Employee of Rights, which is available in 26 languages, one-page overviews for employers and employees, and the complaint form.