Southwest Airlines claims that it will be forced to overhaul company-wide policies to accommodate a new Colorado law.
Southwest Airlines has filed a lawsuit against the Colorado Labor Department, claiming the state’s recently-passed sick leave law “imposes a pervasive and comprehensive paid sick leave scheme on employers.”
Attorneys for the airline say that Southwest already provides its employees with generous paid leave.
However, the airline claims that Colorado’s laws contradict company policy and would require Southwest to rework its entire plan to accommodate the act. Southwest also says that the law would prevent the enforcement of employment contracts that were negotiated with and authorized by unions.
“These various regimes impose different (and inconsistent) obligations on Southwest’s operations, including flight operations across multiple state borders,” the lawsuit states. “The task of untangling this snarl of conflicting paid sick leave rules imposes a substantial and unconstitutional burden on Southwest.”
The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Denver, Colorado, names as defendants Scott Moss, the director of Colorado’s Division of Labor and Standards and Statistics, and state Attorney General Phil Weiser.
A spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying the agency has yet to be served.
However, the same spokesperson said that Southwest Airlines had been previously cited for violations of Colorado labor law.
One citation, writes The Denver Gazette, asserted that Southwest refused to provide COVID-related sick leave for its employees, as well as leave for preventive medical care and care of a sick child.
Southwest also allegedly penalized and punished employees who took leave they were entitled to take, and did not notify workers if and when they were entitled to such leave.
“Rather than remedy its obviously illegal denial of paid sick leave once this investigation started, (Southwest Airlines) continued to enforce its illegal policies for the past year of a deadly pandemic, assuring that throughout all COVID-19 waves, from the original virus to Delta to Omicron, (the airline) left thousands of employees without the paid sick leave that Colorado enacted to protect public health against the spread of infection when employees feel compelled to go to work — especially in high-contact and high-traffic enclosed spaces like airplanes and airports,” the citation says.
The fines, says The Colorado Sun, totaled some $1,300,0000, and were issued for violations of nearly every labor standard set under Colorado Senate Bill 205, which was passed in 2005.
Nevertheless, Southwest Airlines insists that Colorado’s sick leave law could lead to “significant operational disruptions.”
“The [Healthy Families and Workplaces Act] significantly interferes with Southwest’s enforcement of nationwide attendance and reliability policies and will lead to flight delays and cancellations,” the complaint claims.