Southwest Airlines Co., a Dallas-based airline, has been involved in an ongoing dispute with the union representing their baggage handlers and other ground workers. The dispute began when a Southwest manager released a Jan. 7 memo declaring a “state of operational emergency.” In the memo, it was asked that anyone reporting sick also submit a doctor’s statement.

Though the state of emergency was cancelled on Jan. 9, the union alleged the airline was still issuing notices to employees that the taking of sick leave during the past two years could be examined in so-called fact-finding or disciplinary meetings. The union claimed this to be a unilateral change to the collective bargaining agreement that they had with the airline.  In any case, the union has asked the U.S. District Court in Dallas to bar such emergency restrictions from being put in place with regards to its contract.

Southwest experienced a number of disruptions to its operations due to the recent weather.  From Jan. 2 through Jan.7, Southwest canceled close to half of its Midway Airport flights.  

We would need additional information to determine whether Southwest Airlines actions of calling a state of emergency were warranted.  Still, airlines do occasionally face challenging times and employment dispute matters can often make circumstances worse.  The resolution of business disputes is therefore vital in making certain that business can be conducted in a routine fashion.

Business attorneys can represent clients when it comes to contract drafting and making certain that the terms of a contract are appropriately carried out.  In the event of a dispute, these attorneys can participate in negotiations and make certain that any resolution is in the best interest of the business and the shareholders.

Source: Dallas News, “Dispute over sick leave prompts union to sue Southwest Airlines,” Terry Maxon, Jan. 14, 2014