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Media Press Releases Cross-Post: Judge Rules That Requiring Workers To Pay For Training Benefiting Employers Violates The Law

Cross-Post: Judge Rules That Requiring Workers To Pay For Training Benefiting Employers Violates The Law

The following is a cross-post of a Towards Justice press release.

March 21, 2024 | DENVER, CO — Yesterday, a federal judge denied a motion to dismiss in Fredericks v. Ameriflight, a lawsuit brought in January 2023 on behalf of a proposed class of airline pilots by Towards Justice, Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC), Fair Work, P.C., and Tremain Artaza, PLLC challenging cargo airline Ameriflight’s use of a Training Repayment Agreement Provision (TRAP) to threaten workers with thousands of dollars in alleged training costs if they leave their jobs before the end of their contracts.

The case is one of the first class actions in the country to test the legality of TRAPs—which have proliferated across the economy as a new form of non-compete agreement—under minimum wage and non-compete laws.

The use of TRAPs is especially common in the airline industry, particularly among smaller cargo and regional passenger airlines, which exploit these coercive contract terms to keep their pilots trapped in jobs where they earn barely above minimum wage.

Last year, a group of advocates including Towards Justice and SBPC called on the Department of Transportation to restrict the use of TRAPs in the airline industry, noting that airlines use TRAPs to contribute to the ongoing pilot shortage and can have the effect of chilling pilots from speaking out about airline safety issues for fear they will lose their jobs and be stuck paying back their employer for the costs of their training.

“Judge Starr is correct in his ruling: The Thirteenth Amendment abolished involuntary servitude. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg needs to make clear to airlines that TRAPs like the ones used by Ameriflight are unlawful by issuing a clear rule banning their use,” said SBPC counsel Khandice Lofton.

The ruling yesterday set an important precedent, recognizing that when corporations try to charge their workers for the costs of doing business, they are seeking a “kickback” against their workers’ wages. This means that when employers try and charge workers for on-the-job training, they may be violating the minimum wage laws. The court also held that the TRAP operated as a “de facto” non-compete by preventing workers from leaving their jobs.

“This decision recognizes a basic truth: It’s illegal to make workers pay to do their jobs, and it’s illegal to make workers pay their employers’ costs of doing business,” said Rachel Dempsey, an attorney at Towards Justice. “Stay-or-pay contracts turn these principles on their heads in order to undermine worker power and force people to stay in bad jobs. We’re looking forward to proving our case and bringing a stop to the harmful practice of trapping people in jobs they want to leave.”

“Yesterday’s ruling is a major step in the fight to uphold all workers’ rights to engage in a free market economy. Restricting worker mobility through the use of TRAPs is anti-competitive and anti-American. This decision further inspires me to represent my aviation colleagues—past, present, and future—in their right to seek the best job for themselves and for their families, and not become victims of predatory hiring practices,” said plaintiff Kate Fredericks.


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