- In a proposed class action, Warwas v. Spirit Airlines, Inc., a former flight attendant claimed Spirit Airlines interfered with his and other flight attendants’ rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act by improperly determining when they became eligible for FMLA leave, according to a Sept. 1 lawsuit.
- Flight attendants must arrive at the airport about an hour prior to their scheduled departure, according to the complaint. During this pre-flight time, Spirit allegedly required them to attend briefings and be on board to greet passengers. They must also stay on board for at least 30 minutes after the aircraft has landed and been secured to help passengers off the plane, the complaint alleged.
- Spirit violated the FMLA by calculating eligibility using a “credit hours” framework that omits most pre- and post-flight work time — a minimum of 80 to 90 minutes per flight — from the flight attendants’ hours of service, the suit claimed. The named plaintiff also alleged the airline disciplined him for absences that had been approved as FMLA leave and fired him because he complained to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The FMLA provides eligible employees the right to take up to 12 work weeks of job-protected leave for a qualifying reason, a DOL guidance explains. For example, an eligible employee who works 32 hours a week may use up to 32 hours of FMLA leave a week for 12 weeks, the guidance notes.
Most employees are eligible if they work for a covered employer for at least 12 months, have at least 1,250 hours of service with the employer during the 12 months before their FMLA leave starts, and work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles, according to the guidance.
Additionally, the 1,250 hours include only those hours actually worked for the employer. Paid and unpaid leave, including FMLA leave, are not included.
The rules are a little different for airline flight crews, including flight attendants. To meet the FMLA’s hours of service requirement, an airline flight crew employee must satisfy two conditions: During the previous 12 months, the employee must have worked or have been paid for at least 504 hours, and the employee must have worked or been paid for not less than 60% of their applicable monthly guarantee, according to a DOL fact sheet.
The plaintiffs in Warwas claimed that Spirit told flight attendants they needed 520 credit hours (hours excluding pre- and post-flight work) instead of 504 duty hours, or all the hours they worked, as the FMLA rules require.
The FMLA’s requirements also differ for employees who miss work due to service in the U.S. military. According to DOL, any absence due to military service covered by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act counts toward a reemployed employee’s months and hours of service requirement for FMLA leave eligibility.
Additionally, the FMLA prohibits employers from writing up an employee for missing work due to FMLA leave, assessing negative attendance points for using FMLA leave, or retaliating against an employee for exercising their FMLA rights, per DOL guidance.