NATCA Plaintiffs Prevail in 2007 Lawsuit
over Payment for Credit Hours
Damages Checks to Be Distributed Beginning Later this Week
The FAA and Department of Justice lost their most recent appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit earlier this year regarding the credit hours lawsuit filed in 2007 on behalf of 7,912 NATCA plaintiffs. The case finally was resolved this week when the government issued a check for over $14 million in damages to the law firm representing the NATCA plaintiffs. NATCA has been informed by the firm that it will distribute checks to the individual NATCA plaintiffs receiving back pay and liquidated damages awards later this week and that the NATCA plaintiffs should begin to receive those checks next week. The checks will be accompanied by a detailed letter explaining the calculation of the individual back pay and liquidated damages awards, the attorney fees withheld from those awards, and tax information relevant to the awards.
The suit began in 2007 when the law firm of Woodley & McGillivary (since renamed as McGillivary, Steele & Elkin) challenged on NATCA's behalf the FAA's maintenance of compensatory time and credit hours programs in lieu of paying time-and-a-half overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) after the passage of FAA personnel reform. Because this suit was brought under the FLSA, eligible NATCA members had to affirmatively opt-in to the suit as required by that statute. By the time the court closed the suit to additional plaintiffs, 7,912 NATCA members had joined the case. Although a federal trial court initially ruled in favor of the NATCA plaintiffs, a subsequent appeal of that decision by the government resulted in the narrowing of the case down to the single issue of whether the FAA unlawfully allowed the NATCA plaintiffs to accrue credit hours above the 24-hour cap during the recovery period (which ran from two years prior to the date an individual NATCA member joined the suit through Sept. 30, 2009). On remand, the trial court ultimately ruled that the accrual of credit hours above the 24-hour cap during the recovery period did violate applicable law and that the NATCA plaintiffs were entitled to a financial recovery. The government delayed final resolution of the case for several additional years with a further appeal, but this week's developments finally bring this case to a close. Of the 7,912 NATCA plaintiffs who originally joined the suit, over 4,000 will receive checks for back pay and liquidated damages for their accrual of credit hours above the statutory cap.
The firm representing the NATCA plaintiffs is now seeking an award of attorneys' fees and costs from the government. The FLSA provides that prevailing parties are entitled to a statutory award of attorneys' fees and costs. Once the attorneys' fees are resolved, the NATCA plaintiffs who are receiving checks for back pay and liquidated damages may receive a second check for their portion of recovered attorneys' fees.
A second lawsuit with a few thousand additional NATCA plaintiffs was filed after the trial court cut off adding any more plaintiffs to the original
2007 suit. That second suit has been held in abeyance pending final resolution of the first suit. NATCA will update members as to the status of that second suit when additional information is available.
NATCA is extremely pleased that this 12-year litigation has finally resulted in the distribution of checks for back pay and liquidated damages to the NATCA plaintiffs. Members with questions about the case should contact NATCA General Counsel Marguerite Graf at