A veteran American Airlines flight attendant and breast cancer survivor claims the carrier accused her of medical leave fraud during her treatment and questioned why she was getting reconstructive surgery after her breasts had to be removed.
Janine Schumacher has worked for American Airlines for 23 years, but her world ‘crumbled’ in 2019 when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.
“I started chemo immediately after the diagnosis, went through a year of chemotherapy, and went through eight different surgeries in a two-year period,” Jeanine recounted.
“The whole thing is hard; there’s not one easy road. It would have been nice if I wasn’t worried about my employment while I was on this journey,” Jeanine continued.
The long-serving flight attendant says she requested to take FMLA-protected medical leave in January 2020 so as to have reconstructive surgery, but the airline ended the airline up giving her a full schedule for the following month.
When Jeanine queried what was going on, she claims the attendance manager told her to call in sick for the entire month because of the unfolding pandemic. This then happened in March, April and May.
Following her surgeries, Jeanine says she went into the office to introduce herself to the attendance manager and at that point she was told she was being investigated for fraud.
“She actually said to me, ‘why did you even have this surgery done? It was an elective surgery’. At this point, I got so angry I couldn’t even talk, I just stared out the window. Would you like part of your body chopped off?”
In the end, Jeanine says she called in the flight attendant union who successfully represented her and she continues to work for American Airlines.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) has long campaigned against AA’s sickness policy which they have described as “draconian” and “impersonal”.
The union is currently sharing stories from flight attendants who they claim have been mistreated at the hands of American Airlines as part of an ongoing dispute with the carrier over pay, conditions and waning morale.
In a recent poll run by the union, 84% of those flight attendants who were polled said they didn’t feel valued, respected or supported by American Airlines.
The airline did not respond to a request for comment about Janine’s story.
American Airlines has been a long-term supporter of Stand Up To Cancer and has donated millions of dollars to the charity over the last few years.
“American Airlines slogan is caring for people on life’s journey,” Jeanine says. “It would have been nice if they cared for me during mine”.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.