Providence County Superior Court
For Plaintiff: Vicki J. Bejma, Esq.
For Defendant: Tedford B. Radway, Esq.; William E. O'Gara, Esq.
Before this Court are six consolidated appeals from decisions of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT), in which the DLT issued decisions determining that the Director of the DLT could not exercise jurisdiction over the disputes due to federal preemption under the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (ADA). 49 U.S.C. app. §§ 1301, et seq. Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 42-35-15. For the reasons set forth in this Decision, this Court reverses the decisions of the DLT and remands them to the DLT for findings of fact.
Facts and Travel
The Petitioners in this matter were employees of Delta Airlines, Inc. (Delta), at Delta's facility at the T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island. The Petitioners filed Complaints with the DLT between September 6 and September 13, 2011, alleging that Delta had violated the provisions of G.L. 1956 § 25-3-3, "Work on Sundays or holidays." Specifically, the Petitioners assert that Delta violated § 25-3-3 by failing to pay Petitioners one and one-half times their normal rate of pay for work performed on Sundays and holidays.
The DLT held a hearing on these matters before Hearing Officer Ellen McQueeney Lally (Hearing Officer) on May 9, 2012. During that hearing, Delta asserted that all complaints should be dismissed because § 25-3-3 was preempted by the ADA, 49 U.S.C. § 40101(a)(12). On May 18, 2012, the Hearing Officer issued decisions for each Petitioner's claim. The Hearing Officer, DLT Director's designee, declared that § 25-3-3 could not be applied against Delta. (Hearing Officer's Decision at 3.) Specifically, the Hearing Officer explained that the wages of airline employees are related to prices, routes, and services within the meaning of the ADA. Id. Accordingly, the Hearing Officer held that the DLT was "preempted from enforcing wage laws for airline employees" and that the DLT had no jurisdiction to adjudicate the Petitioners' claims. Id.
Thereafter, Petitioners filed timely appeals pursuant to § 42-35-15. The Petitioners moved to consolidate their appeals into one action because each case presented identical legal issues. See Super. R. Civ. P. 7(b)(3)(ii). The DLT and Delta did not object to consolidation, and the motion was granted by this Court on or about October 3, 2012. The parties submitted memoranda. Following a chamber pretrial conference on July 30, 2013, this Court requested briefing from both parties regarding Petitioners' demand that the Court disregard an Affidavit submitted by Delta as an exhibit to its Memorandum of Law filed February 25, 2013.Thereafter, Delta requested that this Court allow it to withdraw the Affidavit as an exhibit on August 7, 2013. The Petitioners filed a response to Delta's Motion to Withdraw Exhibit on August 16, 2013.
Standard of Review
This Court's review on appeal from a decision of an administrative agency is governed by the Rhode Island Administrative Procedure Act, §§ 42-35-1, et seq. See Rossi v. Employees' Retirement Sys. of R.I., 895 A.2d 106, 109 (R.I. 2006). This Court may reverse, modify, or remand an agency's decision if "substantial rights of the appellant have been ...