EMPLOYMENT & AVIATION / Where pilots sought compensation from defendant airlines under Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) based on Kansas City being “single site of employment” for them, and where such pilots were not physically located at Kansas City, held: Physical connection required to qualify for home base status.

In re Global Aviation Holdings, Inc., 2012 WL 5958491 (Bankruptcy E.D.N.Y. November 26, 2012). Free copy available here.

Who is affected? Airlines that are subject to the WARN Act – Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act announcing lay-offs of pilots and the pilots themselves.

“Plaintiffs are airline pilots who were furloughed by World after the commencement of this bankruptcy case. Plaintiffs claim that World ordered a ‘mass layoff’ without giving 60 days notice as required under the WARN Act. This claim is premised on the assumption that the Kansas City, Missouri airport (‘KMCI’), which they allege is World’s pilot base, constitutes a ‘single site of employment’ for WARN Act purposes. “Defendants point out that, while KMCI is used as a notional ‘base’ to calculate contractual commuting time for pilots, World and its pilots have no physical connection with KMCI whatsoever. As such, Defendants argue that as a matter of law, KMCI is not a ‘single site of employment’ at which there could have been a ‘mass layoff’ under the WARN Act.”

The judge’s opinion acknowledged that traveling employees such as airline pilots can present some factual questions about where exactly they are “physically located” or “based” for purposes of the WARN Act. But here there was no reasonable argument that Kansas City had any physical connection to the pilots’ employment – only a “notional” location for computing certain contract payments.