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American Airlines Terminated HIV-Positive Flight Attendant Because He Had to Take Time Off Work to See His Doctor, Lawsuit Claims

American Airlines Terminated HIV-Positive Flight Attendant Because He Had to Take Time Off Work to See His Doctor, Lawsuit Claims

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An HIV-positive flight attendant says he was illegally terminated by Amercian Airlines after he racked up ‘discriminatory’ attendance points in order to attend a doctor’s appointment, a new class action lawsuit filed in a Texas district court alleges.

The veteran flight attendant was employed by American Airlines for at least 19 years until he was sacked in late 2021 and during much of this time, the carrier knew of his HIV status and actively accommodated his needs.

The crewmember’s HIV status means that his immune system has deteriorated over the years, and he has difficulty fighting infectious diseases. As a result, when he became sick he would take time off work in order to monitor his health.

Since 2020, American Airlines has operated what has been described as a “disrespectful and punitive” attendance policy which automatically awards points to flight attendants if they go sick or otherwise take unauthorized time off.

The attendance policy is ‘no fault’ which means that points are awarded even if a flight attendant has to go sick through no fault of their own.

While the flight attendant was working out of AA’s LaGuardia base, he had an ADA accommodation, which prevented American Airlines from awarding him attendance points for HIV-related time off, but that all changed in 2021 when he started working in Dallas.

It was at this time that the crew member had to take time off work for elective hip surgery, forcing him to use up his allowance of family and medical leave. When he returned to work in mid-2021, however, he was told that his HIV accommodation no longer existed and he would start racking up attendance points for any medical absence.

Flight attendants face termination if they acquire just 11 or more points in a rolling 12-month period, and points are awarded for every trip that they miss.

Although an arbitrator prevented American Airlines from awarding more than three points per period of absence, it’s still very each to accumulate points in a busy schedule.

The flight attendant ended up racking up 13 attendance points in just four months because, he claims, he needed to attend doctor’s appointments for his HIV status. American Airlines, however, refused to make any accommodations for his needs and ultimately terminated him under the controversial attendance policy.

The Harman Firm is pursuing a class action lawsuit on behalf of the crewmember and any other disabled American Airlines flight attendants who need to take intermittent time off work due to their disability and who have suffered as a result of AA’s attendance policy.

American Airlines did not immediately to a request for comment.

View Comments (6)
  • Just as a quick correction. A sequence is no just one flight usually. A sequence is the entire trip footprint. For example a 3 day trip with 3 flights per day is 1 sequence.

  • ADA accommodations that involve schedule adjustments are tricky especially for an hourly/front-line type position like Flight Attendant where there are many people available with the same skills to do the work. It involves also providing an alternate time for the work to be done, which obviously in a more narrowly defined or skilled role is easier. For someone like a Flight Attendant that would depend on many factors and also likely on base staffing. In the past I have removed a reasonable accommodation, and was backed by HR and legal, for a front line employee whose accommodation was working a reduced/20-hour schedule. Due to customer contractual requirements and staffing levels, I eliminated all part-time positions, offering one to one full time replacement (with flexibility to accommodate prior commitments centered around time of day – like letting an AM person stay AM, or preserving days off). They no longer could meet one of the job functions, we did not have any other task for them to do (no, creating an admin/office manager position just for them is not a requirement under ADA).

    FMLA being a federal program is the same everywhere. This Flight Attendant exhausted their FMLA, which runs on a rolling 12-month cycle. Yes, I’ve had people with intermittent FMLA for things like “migraines” who would call and see if they had any time remaining, then call out. I made them get re-certified by a doctor regularly when it evolved into a pattern not mentioned in the doctor notes…. like a female employee who by some miracle had her menstruation cycle exactly in line with every major holiday, even Christmas and again 7 days later at New Years.

    I’m sure that if he needed to take an unpaid personal or medical leave that would be offered, but not the flexibility of intermittent FMLA (which sounds like he had). Or I’m sure he could apply for another job internally, if qualified, that allows greater flexibility like a headquarters role.

  • HIV is becoming a chronic disease with better and better treatments and thus may have played into the FA’s changing accommodation status. I mean, regardless of an employee’s situation, medical. or otherwise, at some point, if the employee cannot work the required amount of time, the employer is under no obligation, in most instances, to keep the person employed.

  • Flight attendants, especially senior F/As like this guy, have so many regular days off during the month, why can’t he just go to the doctor on a day off. Or, he could trade trips with another F/A. Sounds like he just doesn’t want to work. If that’s the case, he got his wish.

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