Airline Cargo Loaders Are Exempt Under the Federal Arbitration Act, Supreme Court Holds

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court in Southwest Airways Co. v. Saxon unanimously held {that a} ramp supervisor who incessantly dealt with cargo for an interstate airline firm was exempt from protection beneath the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) as a result of she belonged to a “class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.”  9 U.S.C. § 1.

In reaching this conclusion, the Court’s evaluation was twofold.  First, it outlined the “class of workers” by “the actual work that the members of the class, as a whole, typically carr[ied] out.”  On this regard, the Court outlined the class of staff as these people who bodily loaded and unloaded cargo on and off airplanes on a frequent foundation. 

Subsequent, the Court examined whether or not this class of staff was “engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.”  The Court held that it was, as airline staff who bodily loaded and unloaded cargo on and off planes touring in interstate commerce had been “intimately involved” with cross-border commerce.

Though each side argued for a broader or narrower software of the exemption, the Court remained unpersuaded.  The ramp supervisor argued that the “class of workers” needs to be broadly outlined to incorporate all staff who carried out the “customary work” of the airline, relatively than cargo loaders extra particularly.  The Court rejected this industrywide or companywide method, which might exempt “virtually all employees of major transportation providers” – from cargo loaders to shift schedulers to those that design the airline’s web site. 

The Court additionally rejected the airline’s argument that solely staff who bodily moved items or individuals throughout overseas or worldwide boundaries – equivalent to pilots, ship crews, and locomotive engineers – had been “engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.”  In contrast to in different instances the place the Court discovered a scarcity of obligatory nexus to interstate commerce – equivalent to in the intrastate sale of asphalt for use on highways, or offering localized janitorial providers to an organization engaged in interstate commerce – right here the case legislation was clear that airplane cargo loaders plainly carried out actions inside the circulate of interstate commerce.  The Supreme Court’s resolution clarified the evaluation of whether or not a employee qualifies for the FAA’s transportation employee exemption.  Nevertheless, the scope of this exemption will proceed to be hotly litigated in instances involving different varieties of staff equivalent to, for instance, “last leg” supply drivers and meals supply drivers, the place, as the Court famous, “the answer will not always be so plain.” 


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