Logan wheelchair attendants given back pay

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has cited a contractor at Logan International Airport for failing to pay wheelchair attendants minimum wage and ordered the company to give 30 workers more than $11,000 in back pay.

The wheelchair attendants were being paid $7.50 an hour, 50 cents below the state minimum wage, to assist airline passengers, and weren’t making enough in tips to make up the difference. The attorney general issued a $2,500 civil penalty against Huntleigh USA, based in Irving, Texas, and ordered the contractor to pay $11,185.85 to workers who were underpaid from April 2010 to May 2012.

“Huntleigh USA is committed to paying our employees in full compliance with all state and federal employment laws,” said chief executive Richard Sporn said in a statement. “We fully cooperated with the attorney general’s office, rectified the discrepancy, and initiated the payment for the employees.”

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Huntleigh sent a memo to its wheelchair attendants in the fall of 2010 citing “ongoing cost reduction efforts” for the pay cut from $8 an hour to $7.50, according to SEIU Local 615, the property service workers union. Local 615 has been working with hundreds of wheelchair attendants, baggage handlers, and other contracted service workers at Logan to improve working conditions.

“Workers in the Commonwealth cannot be paid less than the required minimum wage,” Coakley said. “Our office is working to ensure employers do not take advantage of workers during these tough economic times. These enforcement actions not only protect employees, but ensure a level playing field for all businesses that play by the rules.”

Katie Johnston