Frontier and United Airlines face federal wage theft lawsuits in Colorado

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A Frontier Airlines jet parked by a jetway at Concourse A, Denver International Airport, Nov. 1, 2023.

Two separate federal lawsuits in Colorado allege wage theft by Frontier and United Airlines — including that Frontier employees worked up to 16-hour days without required breaks or overtime, and that United flight attendants were not paid full wages while planes were stopped.

The same firm, HKM Employment Attorneys in Denver, filed both. They are seeking class-action status for the cases. 

For Frontier, it’s unclear how many employees are affected, but Abby Zinman, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, said it’s potentially “dozens and dozens.” 

The three named Frontier plaintiffs are Chiquita Joyner, Helen Dixon and Tajahne Hobley. Zinman said the plaintiffs are low-wage workers, women and people of color. 

“They feel very taken advantage of and frankly just overworked and mistreated,” said Zinman. “My impression is that it’s a cultural factor of working there, that it's just ‘you work as much and as hard as we need you to work, if that's sixteen hours with no breaks that's what you're going to do’ and that comes from Frontier.”

Frontier is an ultra-low-cost carrier, charging customers for a variety of add-ons, like carry-on bags. Only small “personal items” are allowed on the plane, without paying an additional fee. Zinman said that Frontier pays commissions to customer service agents for stopping passengers who have exceeded that size restriction.

“One of the allegations in this case is that Frontier is finding really minimal reasons to take that commission away from its employees,” said Zinman. “That's another element of the wages that we argue are absolutely owed to the class members.”

Frontier said it does not comment on pending litigation.

For the United lawsuit, it’s estimated that “hundreds” of flight attendants in Colorado are potential members of a class. The named plaintiffs are Katie Harrison, who worked for United from 2015 to 2023 and Carl-Leslie Senosier-Messan who has worked with United since 2022.

The allegations are that United did not pay full wages for worker’s hours when the plane was not moving, in violation of Colorado wage law.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A parked United Airlines passenger jet at Denver International Airport, Nov. 1, 2023.

United’s policy, according to the lawsuit, is to pay flight attendants for their flying hours: “the time between the pilots’ release of the break at the beginning of a flight and the plane coming to the stop at the end of the flight.”

But in reality, the flight attendants are on duty before and after the flight. “Because they were in uniform and on duty, the Plaintiffs and the other Class Members were required to address any passenger concerns, perform pre-flight duties, and (in the case of United’s many delays) provide regular water services to passengers during these non-flying work hours,” according to the lawsuit.

For those duties, the flight attendants are paid a per diem of approximately $2 per hour, a violation of Colorado wage law, according to the lawsuit.

A United spokesperson said the company has no comment.