Alaska Airlines & Horizon Air Industries Military Leave Litigation

Clarkson v. Alaska Airlines, Inc., et al., No. 2:19-cv-00005-TOR (E.D. Wash.)

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Summary of Lawsuit

This lawsuit alleges that Alaska Airlines, Inc. and Horizon Air Industries, Inc. violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”) by subjecting employees who took military leave to Horizon’s uniform “virtual credit” policy and by failing to provide normal wages to employees on short-term military leave.

Summary of the Claims

Under USERRA, service members who take leaves of absence are required to receive the same rights and benefits as other employees who take comparable forms of leave and service members have the right to be reemployed to the same position with the same rights and benefits had they not taken military leave, treating military leave as continued employment.

The Complaint alleges that Defendants have violated USERRA in two ways:

First, Counts I, II and III (the Virtual Credit Claims) of the Complaint allege that Horizon’s policy of “virtual credit” provides only 2.45 hours of credit per day to pilots on military leave even though they typically work more than 2.45 hours on a normal working day. As a result, the Complaint alleges that this makes it harder for Horizon pilots to reach the minimum 70 hours per month to maintain their status as Regular Line holder and results in their demotion and loss of the compensation and benefits associate with that status.

Second, Count IV of the Complaint (the Paid Leave Claim) alleges that Alaska and Horizon have failed to provide the regular salaries to employees during their short-term military leave despite paying normal wages to employees who take comparable forms of leave.

Class Action

The Court has certified the Claims in this lawsuit on behalf of the following Classes:

1. The Virtual Credit Class: All current and former employees of Horizon who were subjected to Horizon's "virtual credit" policy with respect to a period of military leave and who were demoted or forced to work additional hours in order to maintain their line holder status as a result of the "virtual credit" policy from May 1, 2017 through November 6, 2017.

2. The Paid Leave Class: All current and former Alaska or Horizon pilots who have taken short-term military leave from October 10, 2004 through the date of judgment.

Excluded from the Classes are the following persons: (a) allformer or current individuals who previously reached settlements with orjudgments against Defendants resolving or releasing any claims arising during the Class Period under USERRA related to any of the claims in this lawsuit; and(b) any person who served as a fiduciary of the Plan and their beneficiaries under the Plans and any member of the immediate family of and any heirs,successors or assigns of any such person.

Status of Litigation

The Complaint was filed on January 7, 2019. Defendant Alaska Airlines Pensions/Benefits Administrative Committee filed its Answer to the Complaint on April 17, 2019. Defendants Alaska Airlines, Inc. and Horizon Air Industries, Inc. filed a Motion to Dismiss on April 17, 2019. The Court denied their Motion on June 17, 2019. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on July 1,2019. Defendants filed their Answer to the Complaint on July 15, 2019.

Plaintiff filed the Motion for Class Certification on May 20, 2020, and the Court modified the definitions for the Virtual Credit Class and the Paid Leave Class and granted the motion on August 4, 2020. On September 1, Defendants filed a motion to decertify the Virtual Credit Class, which the Court granted on November 3, 2020. That decertification decision does not affect the certified Paid Leave Class. Notice was issued to the Paid Leave Class on November 23, 2020.

The parties’ cross Motions for Summary Judgment were filed on March 22, 2021. Briefing on the Motions for Summary Judgment was completed on April 26, 2021. The Court granted Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment on May 24, 2021.

Plaintiff filed a Notice of Appeal on June 21, 2021. The case is currently on appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Plaintiff’s opening appeal brief is due on September 29, 2021.

Whom to Contact for More Information

If you are a member of the proposed class or you have information which might assist us in the prosecution of these allegations, please contact one of the following persons:

R. Joseph Barton, Esq. (
Colin Downes, Esq. (
Ming Siegel, Paralegal (
Block & Leviton LLP
1633 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 200
Washington DC 20009
(202) 734-7046 

Vincent Cheng, Esq. (
Block & Leviton LLP
100 Pine Street, Suite 1250
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 968-8999

Block & Leviton is co-counsel in this litigation with Outten & Golden LLP, Crotty & Son Law Firm, PLLC, and the Law Office of Thomas G. Jarrard LLC. 

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