DiFiore v. American Airlines Favors Airline in Massachusetts Wage Dispute

About five years ago, skycaps at Logan International Airport sued American Airlines in DiFiore v. American Airlines alleging that the $2 fee the company imposed for curbside check-in in 2005 deprived them of tips because flyers thought the fee replaced the tips they would normally give.

The Boston Globe reported a federal jury agreed with them in 2008 and awarded them $33,464 plus interest and attorneys’ fees. However, an appeals court recently ruled in favor of the airline.
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Businesses small and large struggle with Massachusetts wage law. Working with a Boston law firm when your Boston company is starting up can save you problems down the road. Make sure the company is following all aspects of the law so that wages are being properly handled. This also extends to other employment practices, such as hiring and promotions.

For employees, it illustrates a common problem: Too many companies are too often caught violating state and federal hour and wage laws. The United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Labor Division, including minimum wage lasts, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Protection Act.

In the case based at Logan, a 1978 law that deregulated airlines preempted state laws relating to services, rates and routes. According to the appeals court, the federal law preempts the Massachusetts state law that is designed to keep employers from keeping tips or service fees intended for the workers. The decision is available on the newspaper’s web site.

This particular issue is complex and deals with both state and federal laws. Companies that have offices in different states can have more complex issues with which to deal. However large the company, they must comply with the law. Requesting a review of employment practices from a business law firm can help ensure the company is following the law.

As stated before, overtime and wage recovery in Boston can be complex issue for both employers and employees. For instance, the minimum wage in Massachusetts in $8. If you work a job where you earn tips, you can be paid as little as $2.63 per hour, but if your tips don’t total the equivalent of $8 per hour, your company must make up the difference. If you feel you have been shorted payment on purpose, you may be entitled not only to that pay, but also penalties and fees.

Federal law does not prohibit a tip pool arrangement among waiters, waitresses, bellhops, counter personnel, bartenders and others. However, a valid pool must not include employees who normally would not receive tips, such as dishwashers, cooks and janitors.

If you own a small- or medium-sized business and need help in Massachusetts, our business law attorneys are available to assist you. Call 617-489-0817.

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