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DiFiore v. American Airlines, Inc.

Close Date: 11/28/2011
Topic(s): Preemption of Consumer Remedies
Date Of Involvement: 08/31/2010
Docket: 11-221

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This case was a lawsuit brought by skycaps at Logan Airport in Boston against American Airlines for violation of Massachusetts’ tip law, which requires that employers turn payments received as tips or service charges over to the workers they were intended to benefit. The skycaps argued that American Airlines violated the law when it began requiring a cash payment for each bag checked by skycaps, and did so in such a way that customers thought the payment was intended to substitute for the traditional cash tips received by skycaps. The airline argued that the application of Massachusetts law to protect the skycaps’ entitlement to receive tips was preempted by the federal Airline Deregulation Act, which prohibits states from regulating airlines fares and routes. A district court ruled against the airlines’ preemption argument, and the skycaps won a substantial jury verdict. The airline appealed, and Public Citizen filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the skycaps, arguing that in light of the longstanding presumption against federal preemption of state laws regulating such matters as wages, a federal statute preempting state regulation of airline fares and routes should not be extended so far as to preempt a law preventing airlines from intercepting tips intended for workers. Refusing to apply the presumption against preemption, the court of appeals held that the skycaps’ tip law claims are preempted. Public Citizen served as co-counsel for the skycaps in seeking Supreme Court review, but the Supreme Court denied the skycaps’ petition.