Ventress v. Japan Airlines, 603 F.3d 676 (2010)

Martin Ventress, a flight engineer for Japan Airlines (“JAL”), alleged his employment was terminated in violation of the California whistleblower statute (Labor Code § 1102.5(b)) for allegedly reporting safety violations six months after they occurred. JAL moved for judgment on the pleadings, asserting complete federal preemption by the Federal Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, as amended by the Whistleblower Protection Program. The Ninth Circuit held that because Ventress did not interrupt “service” (i.e., “the prices, schedules, origins and destinations of the point-to-point transportation of passengers, cargo or mail”), his claim was not preempted by federal law. Compare Wise v. Verizon Communications Inc., 600 F.3d 1180 (9th Cir. 2010) (employee’s claims arising from denial of disability benefits were preempted by ERISA).