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Alaska Airlines to Pay $31 Million To Virgin America Attendants in Wage and Hour Lawsuit

On January 4, 2023, a Class of California-based flight attendants for Virgin America, Inc. (“Virgin America”) and Alaska Airlines (together, the “Airlines”) obtained a settlement of nearly $31 million in resolution of the airlines’ alleged violations of the California Labor Code, California Unfair Competition Law, and California Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”).

The action was originally brought against Virgin America in 2015 for its alleged unlawful labor practices, including failure to pay overtime, failure to provide legally compliant meal and rest periods, failure to provide accurate wage statements, and failure to pay timely wages. The lawsuit was later expanded to include Alaska Airlines as a defendant when the Airlines merged.

In 2019, the Class was awarded $77 million in damages, but the Airlines appealed to the Ninth Circuit seeking a 75% reduction of the award. After the appeals court partially overturned the original judgment, District Judge Jon S. Tigar reevaluated the PAGA penalties and ultimately adopted the Plaintiffs’ proposed $31 million judgment.

The judgment directs $6.3 million in damages and restitution to the Class and the California Resident Subclass for unpaid overtime, $5.1 million in prejudgment interest, $4.4 million in statutory penalties for failure to provide legally compliant wage statements, $410,800 for failure to provide legally compliant rest breaks, and $190,500 for failure to provide legally compliant meal periods. The judgment also awards $2.2 million in statutory penalties to the Waiting Time Penalties Subclass for unpaid wages due at the time of separation from employment. Finally, civil penalties totaling $12.2 million will be split 75%/25% between the Labor and Workforce Development Agency and enumerated groups of aggrieved employees.

The Settlement Class includes named plaintiffs Julia Berstein, Lisa Marie Smith, and Esther Garcia, and all other flight attendants who work or have worked for Virgin America in California. The Class is represented by Monique Olivier and Hannah M. Shirey of Olivier & Shreiber LLP, Alison Kosinski and Emily Thiagaraj of Kosinski & Thiagaraj LLP, and James E. Miller, James C. Shah, Nathan C. Zipperian, Kolin C. Tang, Chiharu G. Sekino, and Ronald S. Kravitz of Miller Shah LLP.

Virgin America Inc. is represented by Brendan T. Killeen, Maureen N. Beckley, Jennifer A. Tomlin, Nancy Villarreal, Andrew P. Frederick, and Aleksandr Markelov of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP.

The case is Bernstein et al. v. Virgin America, Inc. et al., number 4:15-cv-02277-JST, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

The legal team at Miller Shah LLP has extensive experience with class action matters. If you have any questions regarding this subject or this post, please contact Casey Yamasaki (ctyamasaki@millershah.com) or Chiharu Sekino (cgsekino@millershah.com). The Firm can also be reached toll-free at (866) 540-5505.

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