Flight attendants at American Airlines based in New York are vowing to push back against what they call an “erratic and irresponsible” attendance policy they contend violates state law. After a recent victory for flight attendants in California, there is hope that New York State law can provide them better protection for sick leave.
American Airlines Flight Attendants Still Roiled By Strict Attendance Policy, Now Look To New York Law For Relief
As noted by Paddle Your Own Kanoo, the union representing flight attendants at America Airlines is pushing back against AA’s attendance policy by noting that it runs afoul of New York State law. An Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) memo labels AA a “totalitarian regime” and says the attendance policy is “erratic and irresponsible.”
“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. We are actively researching and exploring our legal and contractual options.”
New York law does not allow employers to penalize employees for taking sick time off or other lawful absences.
So what is the attendance policy?
- Flight attendants are issued “points” for the following:
- calling in sick
- taking a personal day
- reporting late for work
- being a “no-show” for a flight
- Over a rolling 12-month period, penalties include:
- 4-6 points – the flight attendant is subject to a performance review
- 8 points – the flight attendant is subject to a “final warning”
- 10 points – the flight attendant is subject to termination
- More points are awarded during “critical periods,” whcih include:
- July 1 -7
- Thanksgiving period (the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving through the Sunday after)
- December 22 – January 3
The exact breakdown of how points are assigned is not clear and there is some discretion in how they are given out.
I’ll opine here: I think it is ridiculous that someone should feel compelled to come to work when sick. Even if the current work rules represent teh fruits of a fiercly-negotaiced collective bargaining agreement, I do not think it is good for the company or good for customers to ask employees, especially customer-facing flight attendants, to come in when sick.
While federal labor laws concerning airlines typically supersede state laws (and that may be the case here, though a legal outcome is not clear), that does not change the fact that making flight attendants fear for their jobs if they get sick is not the way to run an airline…or treat a human being.
And practically, as View From The Wing notes, threatening to fire sick flight attendants does not even boost attendance.
Flight attendants at American Airlines are latching on to a New York State law that protects workers from facing workplace discipline for calling in sick. While the outcome is not clear due to the cloudy legal relationship separating state and federal labor laws regulating airlines, the APFA sees this as a winning argument.
Should flight attendants be penalized for calling in sick too often, even with a doctor’s note?