Delta Air Lines and three other carriers accused of denying mandated sick leave to workers

Delta Air Lines and three other carriers accused of denying mandated sick leave to workers
Delta Airlines and three other carriers have been accused of denying workers' mandated sick leave. (JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS)
Tuesday, February 7, 2017, 10:22 PM
Delta Air Lines and three other carriers have denied workers mandated sick leave, according to the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs.

Delta, the nation’s second busiest airline, was hit with administrative charges for allegedly violating the city’s Earned Sick Leave Act. Consumer Affairs investigators say the airline failed to give employees their mandated five paid sick days a year.

The case, in front of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, marks the first against the airline industry, where city investigators believe there are widespread abuses.

The Atlanta-based airline — which generated $622 million in net income last year — faces thousands in fines for a series of violations.

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“Sometimes I would go to work sick because I was scared I'd lose my job and I know others who were scared too and did the same thing,” said a Delta flight attendant who asked not to be identified.

The case is based on complaints made by three Delta flight attendants who worked at Kennedy International Airport from August 2014 to April 2015, records show.

Delta defended its sick leave policy, saying it is more generous in some respects than what the city requires.

“However, Delta is confident that the local New York City sick leave law, which applies only to work being performed within New York City, cannot legally or practically be applied to flight attendants who perform nearly all of their work duties in federal air space and other jurisdictions outside of New York City,” said Delta spokesman Brian Kruse.

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Consumer Affairs is probing three other unnamed airlines accused of the same violations as well as several subcontractors of the airline industry who employee cleaners and couriers. Many of them earn minimum wage. No charges have been filed in those cases.

Former wheelchair attendant Farouk Salim, 59, said “When we ask for the (sick) days they only pay us for five hours.”(HANDOUT)
“We just get five days of sick leave a year,” said Farouk Salim, 59, who used to work ferrying around passengers in wheelchairs for Pax Assist at Kennedy Airport. “But when we ask for the days they only pay us for five hours.”

Last summer he transferred to a different company, PrimeFlight, subcontracting with JetBlue.

“They are much better,” the father of two from Guyana said. “We get the full five days.”

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Pax Assist did not return a call seeking comment.

All told, the Department of Consumer Affairs has closed more than 1,000 paid sick leave cases, obtaining more than $4.4 million in fines and repayment, the city said. That has helped more than 15,100 staffers. Among the offenders are national businesses like CVS, Toys“R”Us and Lowe's.

“No one wants to get sick while they're traveling and yet the workers who are serving our food and are responsible for our safety in the air are being forced to go to work while sick or they risk retaliation by the airline,” DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas said. “Paid sick leave is a vital law that protects the health and wellbeing of workers and consumers, including airline employees and passengers.”

Mayor de Blasio pushed hard to boost the paid sick leave law shortly after he was elected even though business groups that argued it would unfairly burden small store owners.

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"New York City will defend its workers whether they work at a corner store or for an international airline," de Blasio said in a statement Tuesday. "Working people deserve basic protections like paid sick leave, and we will fight to make sure our laws are enforced."