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New York City sues American Airlines on sick leave laws

New York City has sued American Airlines, alleging the airline is illegally retaliating against workers who call in sick under the city's Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law.

The city's lawsuit filed with the New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings seeks civil penalties and $375,000 in restitution for 750 ground crew workers, including agents, representatives, fleet service and mechanical employees.

The city alleges on 29 July that the Texas-based airline "violated its ground crew’s rights by engaging in practices that make workers afraid to exercise their rights because they will be disciplined for using a sick day," says Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Commissioner Lorelei Salas on 29 July. These practices include assigning disciplinary points for each sick day used by ground crew workers.

The agency's workplace-wide investigation of American Airlines found that it assigned disciplinary points for each sick day used by ground crew workers, fails to pay sick leave at the required rate and illegally requires advance notice and medical documentation for fewer than three days of leave.

“We will not tolerate any employer that violates employees’ rights to their paid safe and sick leave,” Salas says. "Workers in major transportation hubs where thousands of people pass through everyday should not have to choose between going into work sick or getting in trouble for exercising their right to take a sick day."

In response to the city's allegations American says its employees "enjoy generous sick leave and benefits, including those set by union contracts with terms that are often more generous than required by the New York law".

The New York suit adds to American's labour-related legal battles.

The carrier sued its mechanics' unions in US district court in May, alleging they orchestrated a work slowdown to pressure the company. The mechanics are represented by the TWU-IAM Association.

US district judge John McBryde of the Northern US District Court of Texas issued a restraining order on 16 July in the airline's favor against the TWU-IAM Association. McBryde also rejected a motion asking that a productivity benchmark be struck out on the grounds of negative effect on safety.

The order requires employees to achieve productivity levels equal to 2018 levels. TWU President John Samuelsen in a videotaped statement on 17 July tells union members "we must comply" with the restraining order and told members not to "engage in any form of interference with the operations of American Airlines".

The TWU-IAM Association is negotiating with American to bring the TWU and IAM work groups under a single contract.

Macquarie Group analyst Susan Donofrio downgraded American Airlines from an outperform to a neutral rating on 29 July in part because "there is likely to be an overhang on American’s stock, given the ongoing mechanics union slowdown and lagging operational and customer performance metrics such as on-time performance, mishandled bags, and customer complaints that persist".

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