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Case Name Huntsman v. Southwest Airlines PA-CA-0005
Docket / Court 3:17-cv-03972 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Public Accomm./Contracting
Case Summary
Pilots of Southwest Airlines Co. (Southwest) brought this class action case against their employer after being deprived of the proper amount of retirement contributions and sick leave benefits during leaves of absence to serve in the U.S. military. Represented by private counsel, the pilots sued ... read more >
Pilots of Southwest Airlines Co. (Southwest) brought this class action case against their employer after being deprived of the proper amount of retirement contributions and sick leave benefits during leaves of absence to serve in the U.S. military. Represented by private counsel, the pilots sued Southwest in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on July 14, 2017 under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (the Act). The pilots sought declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and attorneys' fees and costs.

The pilots claimed that Southwest failed to comply with the Act, which mandated that private airline companies make retirement contributions and provide accrued paid sick leave to pilots for all periods in which they engaged in qualified military service and were subsequently reemployed by the company. They alleged that Southwest prevented pilots from receiving the full amount of retirement contributions they were owed both by failing to make contributions and by failing to provide inform pilots about the amount of retirement contributions that they could make and Southwest matched. They further claimed that Southwest did not allow the pilots to accrue paid sick leave but permitted pilots on comparable forms non-military leave to accrue sick leave.

The parties went through mediation in June 2018 and then began negotiating a settlement. The case was stayed for almost a year. On August 6, 2018, Judge James Donato ordered that the case would be sent to trial if a motion for a preliminary approval of settlement was not filed by September 5. On September 12, 2018, both parties signed a settlement agreement and on December 5, 2018, Judge Donato granted conditional certification of settlement class and preliminary approval of the settlement agreement. The conditionally certified settlement class included 1,478 current (as of the date of the order) and former pilots employed by Southwest that took short-term military leave from Southwest between January 1, 2001 and the preliminary approval date.

Under the agreement, Southwest had to add to a pilot's sick leave balance 100% of the sick leave alleged denied between 2008 and the preliminary approval for the settlement and 77% of the sick leave allegedly denied from 2001 to 2007. This was estimated to cost Southwest more than $13 million. In addition, Southwest had to pay $5.8 million into a settlement fund that would cover retirement contributions, $1,000 payments to class members no longer employed by Southwest, and attorneys' fees and costs. If any funds remained in the net settlement fund after 180 days from the date the checks were mailed, they would be donated to a mutually approved non-sectarian, non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Under the agreement, the court retained jurisdiction over this matter for three years beyond the final approval date of the settlement. If all the payments had not been made after three years, the court could extend its jurisdiction until all payments were made.

Judge Donato granted final approval of settlement on October 4, 2019. The court will retain jurisdiction into 2022.

Abhi Parekh - 09/22/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Defendant(s) Southwest Airlines
Plaintiff Description Current and Former Pilots of Southwest Airlines Co. who took short-term leaves of absence to serve in the U.S. military and subsequently returned to civil employment.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Granted
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2019 - 2022
Filed 07/14/2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
N.D. Cal.
10/04/2019
3:17-cv-03972
PA-CA-0005-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Cal.
07/14/2017
Class Action Complaint Jury Trial Demanded Exempt from Filing Fees Under 38 U.S.C ยง 4323(h)(1) [ECF# 1]
PA-CA-0005-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
12/05/2018
Order Granting Conditional Certification of Settlement Class and Preliminary Approval of Settlement [ECF# 44]
PA-CA-0005-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
10/04/2019
Order Granting Final Approval of Settlement and Final Judgment [ECF# 57]
PA-CA-0005-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
10/12/2019
Settlement Agreement [ECF# 37]
PA-CA-0005-0002.pdf | Detail
show all people docs
Judges Donato, James (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0005-0001 | PA-CA-0005-0003 | PA-CA-0005-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Crotty, Matthew (Washington) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0005-0004 | PA-CA-0005-9000
Dempsey, Rachel Williams (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0005-0002 | PA-CA-0005-9000
Jarrard, Thomas (Washington) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0005-0004 | PA-CA-0005-9000
Romer-Friedman, Peter (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0005-0002 | PA-CA-0005-0004 | PA-CA-0005-9000
Sagafi, Jahan C (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0005-0002 | PA-CA-0005-0004 | PA-CA-0005-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Berry, Brian (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0005-9000
Farmer, Douglas J (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0005-9000

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