Narrow transportation

Do Airline Ramp Workers Meet the FAA Transport Worker Exemption?


Are airline ramp workers considered Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) “transportation workers”?

The United States Supreme Court allowed an airline review application to resolve this issue. Southwest Airlines Co. v. Saxon, File n ° 21-309.

The court ruling will determine whether workers will be able to pursue their overtime class action in Federal Court or, rather, will have to arbitrate their claims on an individual basis under an arbitration agreement with their employer.

The transport workers exemption excludes from FAA coverage “contracts of employment of seafarers, railway employees or any other category of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce”. 9 USC § 1. In recent years, exemption has emerged as one of the most important issues in class actions, especially as employers have increasingly adopted arbitration agreements with waivers of claims. class actions and class actions to limit litigation costs and wages. and HR lawsuits have proliferated among employees and independent contractors who claim to fall under the exemption.

In the present case, a federal district court applied a narrow interpretation of the residual clause of the FAA exemption. He found that the exemption did not apply to a cargo runway supervisor at Chicago Midway Airport. The complainant alleged that she regularly assisted her team of ramp attendants with the loading and unloading of air cargo that needed to be transported interstate. The district court ruled that the employee should pursue her wage claims in individual arbitration because the employee was not a “transport worker”. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (which has jurisdiction over Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin) overturned a March 31, 2021 ruling, ruling that the transportation worker exemption applies . The Seventh Circuit found that while the employee did not personally transport goods or people in interstate commerce, she was an essential link in the interstate commerce chain. (The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, came to the opposite conclusion in Eastus v. ISS Facility Servs., Inc., a 2020 case involving similar facts.)

Jackson Lewis PC © 2021Revue nationale de droit, volume XI, number 348