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.
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.