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Flight Attendants Say American Airlines’ ‘Erratic and Irresponsible’ Attendance Policy Breaks New York Law

Flight Attendants Say American Airlines’ ‘Erratic and Irresponsible’ Attendance Policy Breaks New York Law

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Flight attendants at American Airlines claim the carrier is becoming more and more focused on terminating employees and that people’s careers are being ruined by an “erratic and irresponsible” attendance policy that mimics a “totalitarian regime”.

In a recent memo, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents crew at American Airlines, said it believed the controversial attendance policy breached a recently enacted New York labor law that prohibits employers from punishing workers who take lawful absences.

American Airlines introduced the disputed attendance policy in 2018, whereby flight attendants are automatically issued points whenever they go sick, take a personal day, report late for work or ‘no-show’ for a flight.

If a flight attendant amasses too many points during a rolling 12-month period, they could be subject to disciplinary proceedings or termination, even if their absences were legitimate. Absences during ‘critical periods’ like the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, or Christmas result in additional points being issued.

Just 10 points collected over a 12-month period could result in termination.

APFA says it believes the attendance policy falls foul of New York labor codes but that despite “numerous communications and discussions” with American Airlines, the carrier is yet to modify its policy to fall in line with the law.

“Despite American’s defiant position on this matter, APFA maintains that these actions by American are prohibited by law and will not be tolerated in New York,” the memo continued.

“We are actively researching and exploring our legal and contractual options.”

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul signed Assembly Bill A8092B into law last November, which clarifies that workers “shall not be punished or subjected to discipline by employers for lawful absences.”

Airlines across the U.S. have found themselves fighting local labor laws in multiple states that are seemingly at odds with policies that were designed for highly-mobile workforces spread across the entire country.

Some carriers have argued that state-issued labor laws are trumped by federal rules for aviation workers, while other airlines have suggested that they could simply abandon crew bases in states with unfavourable laws for their business.

The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), which represents crew at several U.S. airlines, including United and Alaska, has advocated for flight attendants to be exempted from local labor law on the condition that the exemption is used as a bargaining tool.

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