Either I’m missing something big or a recent case has resulted in a clear miscarriage of justice. Either way, a case in which two United Airlines flight attendants were awarded more than $2 million in compensatory damages for age discrimination merits our further thought.
A Bizzarre Legal Victory For Two Flight Attendants Who Confessed To Breaking Many Rules, But Sued United Airlines For Age Discrimination When They Were Fired
Once again, a battle between flight attendants is at play. A flight attendant named Sheila Simms made an internal complaint against two of her co-workers, Jeannie Stroup and Ruben Lee. Both are United flight attendants based in Denver. The complaint alleged that the flight attendants were watching a movie an iPad while on duty.
Investigating the matter, United purportedly sent a supervisor onboard a flight five weeks later from Denver to San Francisco to covertly observe the pair of flight attendants. On that flight, the supervisor observed the flight attendants break several rules. Lee was observed smoking an e-cigarette during the flight and both watched a video together on an iPad while sitting on metal galley boxes and sharing earbuds.
But wait, there’s more. Lee was also “caught” giving out a mini bottle of alcohol for free to an economy class passenger, not performing a mid-flight water service properly (as is prescribed by United’s internal service guidelines), not wearing his name tag, and for not standing in the correct position during the pre-flight safety demonstration.
A further investigation ensued, but both Stroup (who had 29 years of seniority) and Lee (who had 40 years of seniority) opted to retire before facing termination.
Yet both sued United after retiring, claiming age discrimination. A jury of peers found that United’s story was full of inconsistencies, the witnesses were unreliable, and that there were “procedural irregularities” in how the matter was dealt with internally.
Notably, however, neither Stroup nor Lee denied breaking the rules. Instead, they argued such violations were both “minor” and “commonplace” and argued that other flight attendants were not fired for the same thing.
At the crux of the case was the idea that rather than subject the flight attendant to escalating levels of discipline, they were simply targeted for termination, showcasing “entirely subjective disciplinary decision-making.”
United appealed the jury verdict, but the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it, arguing:
“We conclude that there was substantial evidence to support the jury’s verdict. More specifically, there was sufficient evidence for the jury to reasonably determine that United’s stated reasons for disciplining Plaintiffs were a pretext for unlawful age discrimination.”
(at the appellate level, the standard is whether the jury’s finding of fact was clearly erroneous, not whether it was in fact right or wrong)
You can read the full 52-page opinion here.
In short, the jury believed the flight attendants and not United Airlines. That’s it.
And that goes to show the power of having a good attorney which can resonate with the jury. I’m frankly flabbergasted that these flight attendants were able to twist their clear (and admitted) offenses into a shocking multi-million dollar judgment.
Does it really matter if United went harder on these employees than others (for argument’s sake)? Legally, absolutely (to be clear – I don’t believe the was proven by the plaintiffs, which is why I lament this case). But how about morally? They broke the rules and they knew better (after so many years on the job). So what if some got a slap on the wrist (unmerited mercy) due to unique circumstances surrounding their case or employment history?
How can United possibly monitor 20,000 flights attendants beyond what co-workers or passengers report? That doesn’t mean those who violate clearly-defined rules should also expect to get away, even if it is more senior employees who tend to be uniquely guilty of these offenses (not because of their age, per se, but because they are more comfortable in their roles and feel emboldened to push the boundaries). Yet that is not how employment discrimination, alleged or real, works. United failed to convince the jury that it adapted an even-handed approach. True or not, the jury believed the flight attendants.
This really strikes me as one of those cases in which a clever attorney made United out to be the big, bad, deep-pocketed corporation which took advantage of two, poor flight attendants when it seems to me that just the opposite is true: two flight attendants took advantage of their employer and made a mockery of justice…
I don’t know, isn’t one of the ‘benefits’ of a union to have a detailed, prescribed process for discipline? Without knowing those details, it’s hard to say definitively, but United’s heavy-handedness was the key here in my opinion. The FAs were absolutely out of line and I don’t agree with the tactics or end result, but there is definitely contributory blame on UA’s part as well. Unfortunate for UA, it has the deeper pockets and airlines having poor reputations in general probably sits in the back of most jurors’ minds.
If you read the judicial opinion, the formal process was followed (including a “charge letter”). But the jury bought the allegation that United singled them out, with the only possible reason being their seniority. The jury bought their argument hook, line, and sinker.
What if UA routinely spied on aging FA, then punished them for minor offenses. Wouldn’t that be relevant?
Spied on them on the basis of internal complaints or just because they felt like it? Junior snitches rat out older flight attendants. We get it. But what is United supposed to do, just ignore the complaints out of fear they will be sued for discrimination?
Are you a bootlicker Matt? You seem like a bootlicker based on your conclusion alone.
Go cash your unethical checks you make writing bs here.
You give me far too much credit.
Been no secret UA has been trying to get rid of older FA’s, they want to be like a lot of Foreign airlines with a age limit so I shed no tears for the big Corp.
You seem like a total idiot, I’m surprised Matt didn’t point that out.
Please provide the attorney contact information for your March 9 ,2022 article.
I don’t have it.
Legally though, if they admitted to those offenses but still proved that their punishments were harsher than those given to younger FAs, isn’t that still age discrimination?
They alleged that — and the jury went along. I’m not sure that is true in practice (and of course, my argument is that it doesn’t even matter as long as the discipline process was followed).
How is is alleged? They would not have won their lawsuit if United would have been able to prove that they handled every flight attendant found to be in violation of company rules the same way. We know these aren’t the only two FA’s watching movies on iPads instead of working, we know there are quite a few flights where FA’s don’t come through the cabin mid-flight and offer water service, I’ve personally seen United FA’s give passengers in coach a free alcoholic beverage, free snack boxes, but how many of those FA’s have been fired? If United would have been able to prove that they handle every situation the same their age discrimination claim would have had no merit. If United gave other FA’s a pass, a warning, a write up in the file but did not move to have them fired but decided to fire these two FA’s that is discrimination.
The FA’s were 100% wrong but United was also 100% wrong because they discriminated in how they doled out discipline. You can’t give one FA a warning but fire another FA for breaking the same rule.
The jury could decide however it wanted – their decision may vindicate the flight attendants legally, but doesn’t actually answer the question of whether UA did target them on the basis of their age/seniority (beyond the innuendo constructed by the clever plaintiff attorney).
As another reader put it, imagine if the two FA’s were African American, better yet, African American women.
Would United have been quite so quick and heavy handed in their discipline?
As someone whose encountered OPEN age discrimination in 3 jobs and know of it largely in my industry (IT), I’m rather happy to see a huge settlement in an age discrimination case since it’s been so open and blatant during my career:
1) (2) Mass layoffs of older, well qualified workers for cheap outsourced labor. We got 5 month severance payouts as bribes (but we could only sue if we didn’t take the payout and in individual arbitration, not class action.)
2) Two town halls where the management just blurted out that younger was better.
3) One hiring manager said to me “you sounded younger on the phone” and then proceeded to ask me if “Can you work with young people?” He asked me again and didn’t do a call back. I regret not notifying the EEOC.
Other special interest groups have had corporations fear them including with mass ad campaigns advertising how tolerant and diverse they are. When was the last time you saw a corporate ad saying they want to hire more older workers?
Matt, I’m sure you’ve heard of the book “Reptile” written for trial lawyers on how to Razzle/Dazzle juries? It’s only $1680 (USED) on Amazon. I’m not a lawyer, but something that is that expensive on the used market sounds fascinating.
It does matter, though. If they are able to show that discipline is not applied consistently to all flight attendants for the same offenses, then they have a case for discrimination. This is why a company must always (ALWAYS) follow their disciplinary process AND enforce the rules for all employees at all times. Giving leniency to one person or one group of people when they break the rules sets a company up for claims of discrimination.
Legally, of course I agree. But UA cannot possibly police 20,000 people. Investigations are complaint-driven, whether from internal FA complaints (so-called snitches) or customers. How does that process show UA is targeting older FAs?
I mean, this is where your argument dies. There is zero reason United couldn’t install video monitoring in every aircraft. They literately can monitor all their employees.
United Airlines cannot monitor every flight attendant and I’m sure the reason why the flight attendants were turned in because the other flight attendant was probably busting her butt taking care of the passengers while they were watching movies which is not fair for the other F/A. There are other flight attendants that watch movies but still do their job and go through water service and do their walkthroughs but there are other flight attendants who just play video games and watch movies and don’t do a darn thing and it has nothing about being young or old because they have many young FAst as well as older flight attendants doing the same thing and as far as giving out snack boxes free and a drink free no one knows the circumstances in which they gave it to them. They take credit cards only and I know there are a lot of countries that these people cannot afford or do not have a credit card so why should they be punished not being able to purchase something because of lack of a credit card? There are still people that do not know that they have to put their credit card in first online because I know with my grandmother she never had a smartphone so does this mean she can’t eat during a flight? That is absurd! It should be at the discretion of the flight attendants. If they feel that they want to comp someone they should have the right so long as it is put in their device that it is a complimentary item. This discrimination BS happens all the time. Old people are trying to say it’s an age discrimination and others say it’s a race discrimination but it’s really about a plain lazy flight attendants. Everyone is trying to make a free dime and I cannot believe that courts are making such a mockery out of the justice system and I cannot believe United didn’t have a lawyer good enough for them to win. Now it’s just sets precedence for everyone else that wants to settle because they are lazy. This world needs to stop making excuses because I’m sure if they were hard workers and they were watching a movie and still doing the Water Service it would have not have been taken to this level. It had nothing to do with them not having a name tag, age, etc,…
You’re argument is that it doesn’t matter if employees not in a protected class got a lighter punishment? If you’re arguing that that’s how you wish the world worked, then that’s legitimate. If you’re arguing that disparate treatment doesn’t give a basis for a discrimination lawsuit, then you’re cookoo bananas,
Obviously, I am arguing the former…but I maintain my objection to such an obscene award for employees who break company rules.
You seem upset that someone used the system as it was designed? This is how it works , this is how our judicial system works. The reason why laws are always being reinterpreted is because they’re written so vaguely. I personally agree with you that this is a BS case. Please excuse my French! I believe the US judicial system needs a complete overhaul from top to bottom!
As OJ Simpson once said, “it’s not how much justice you deserve, but how much justice you can afford.”
I’ll leave it at that.
Unfortunately he paid with over 9 years of his life for just trying to get his own stolen stuff back. A victim of a judge (Judith Glass) looking to make a name for herself, gain a TV show that failed, and as payback for something she “thought” happened 14 years earlier in another state. One of the largest miscarriages of justice occurred in that Vegas courtroom.
As an attorney, you need to understand the law. He brought armed men to force someone to relinquish property in their possession, instead of the police. In any jurisdiction, that’s armed robbery. The appellate courts laughed when he tried to appeal because it was not even a borderline case on the law.
Respect your opinion as an attorney but the case stunk. They let everyone go free except CJ who wouldn’t turn on OJ. No one other than OJ would have gotten the sentence he did. Anyone objective understands he was over prosecuted and over sentenced and “getting” OJ was the goal. That said, he was an idiot for allowing himself to be put in that situation.
Frankly I disagree with you on this, when I normally do agree with your legal analysis. Rules and punishments for breaking those rules should be applied evenly. If the same set of facts exists with two cases but one FA is given a slap on the wrist and then the other is terminated it is treating employees differently.
I also will note, as you didn’t, that the watching the iPad occured during their breaks, which should be the FAs time, even if they have to take the break in the galley.
I would agree that they *should* be applied evenly, but what if they are not? As long as the “process” is followed, which it was, why should it legally matter if some flight attendants were shown mercy (and again, this is all in theory…in looking at the record, I don’t even believe that was proven).
And I disagree on the second point too. United’s employee guidelines say no watching movies during the break, which of course were created with union input. No one is forcing anyone to work for United. If you want to work for United, following those basic rules because it does look quite unprofessional when two flight attendants are hunched over an iPad sharing earbuds.
“why should it legally matter if some flight attendants were shown mercy ”
If UA showed mercy to younger FAs and not older FAs, that would be age discrimination, even if UA had valid grounds for firing the older ones. I haven’t read the case, but facially fair processes can be discriminatory as applied.
You are basically arguing that you think workplace discrimination of a protected class should be legal. I say that because a pattern of wildly different punishments for similar workplace rule violations -is- one of the definitions of workplace discrimination.
I enjoy reading your posts, but I can not get behind that position. Anti-discrimination laws have made the U.S. a much more fair and equitable society. You should do some research into workplace discrimination and reconsider your position on this.
I am arguing that everyone who breaks rules should be terminated. That exceptions exist does not establish a pattern and practice of discrimination based on age.
That is a very poor argument.
When you’re discriminating against protected classes, the exact way you do it is by writing down an seemingly reasonable process, then only applying it to the groups you’re discriminating against.
On top of that, not every offense is a termination offense. I was bemused at some of the things the FAs were cited for… not standing in the correct position during the safety briefing? Not performing the mid-flight water service properly? (Note, not NOT doing it, just not doing it well…) Watching a video in the galley? Like a YouTube video for 60 seconds? FAs read magazines/books in flight all the time (whether they should or not.) These are all training issues.
And gave a free adult beverage to an economy class passenger? If United fired every FA who did that there wouldn’t be many FAs left… FAs hand out free drinks to econ passengers all the time for all sorts of reasons. (Maybe now hoping to get fired and get their million.)
If FA union members are sick of working with lazy coworkers, they should vote to adjust their contract so it’s easier to get rid of them. And if there are too many lazy union members to do that, next contract negotiation UA should compensate the FAs to introduce a quicker process. (And then evenly enforce that process.)
Actually lazy FAs shouldn’t keep their jobs. But if, in practice, it’s just old FAs that don’t keep their jobs, then you have an age discrimination problem, as the jury seems to have recognized, at least from the evidence presented to them.
“When you’re discriminating against protected classes…”
You’re really not understanding the point I’m making. Legally, we are in agreement.
But that statement assumes facts not in evidence, which is my problem with the case. Yes, the jury thought otherwise. I’m not advocating for employment discrimination: I am lamenting the manner in which the jury interpreted the fact pattern.
You wrote: “As long as the ‘process’ is followed, which it was, why should it legally matter if some flight attendants were shown mercy”
It should absolutely matter. This was a huge issue during the civil rights movement. The government would establish laws (or corporations would establish rules) that everyone was expected to break eventually. But the government (or corporations) would only enforce the rules against those of certain races. If this can be proven, it is absolutely discrimination.
The average person breaks multiple laws a day. If you can show that the government is only targeting the application of a law to you based on race, then as applied, it is unconstitutional. The constitution doesn’t protect against age discrimination, but federal statute does, in much the same way.
Think about it. Let’s say there’s a law that punishes you for changing lanes without turning on your blinker for 3 seconds beforehand. Perfectly reasonable, right? But here’s the thing. Everyone will violate that law. If it is applied evenly, it is a nuisance of a law but valid. If it is applied only to those of a certain race, it is not unconstitutional. Now apply that to corporations via federal anti-discrimination statutes. You see the picture.
So yes, I appreciate your idea that if someone did something wrong, they should be punished, whether or not others were let off more lightly. But if you take that idea too far, you enable pretextual discrimination. Which is why Congress decided to pass federal laws prohibiting this type of unequal application of company policy.
Legally, I agree with you. But in reviewing the fact pattern, I don’t see such an approach. Instead, UA took a complaint-driven approach to investigating matters and did not appear to me to target senior flight attendants, despite the argument from the plaintiffs.
Mathew, You are SO RIGHT! I worked for 34 years for TWA/AA. Never, ever, would I consider sitting on my jumpseat watching a movie or reading a book! First – You are working the flight for the safety of the passengers. Second – to spend your time within the cabin. This now includes a ridiculous “water” pass. I have seen so many flagrant unusual Flight Attendants who think their job is to say “hello” and “good-bye”. How embarrassing for the REAL Flight Attendants who are onboard for a reason – to make the flight enjoyable for passengers’, put them at ease and not ignore the fact that people on the flight paid for their wages. The new wave of unacceptable people being hired for low wages is disgusting. I loved my job and loved making a great flight for each passenger.
I am a retired UA flight attendant. Those 2 were based in DEN , there was no international flying out of DEN during that time period so they were working on a domestic flight. We DO NOT have breaks on a domestic flight, ONLY international flights that are over a certain flying time. These 2 were just lazy.
This statement is completely inaccurate. Crews do have and are entilitled contractual crew rest on domestic trips. Duty time, check in time, and/or flight time dictate the contractually required rest.
“Does it really matter if United went harder on these employees than others (for argument’s sake)?” Yes, it does.
Well, that was really my secondary point, not the crux of this case. But is the contention that United had no system for determining discipline levels for rule-breaking mean that observed offenses cannot be dealt with? I say no.
Here’s why United lost the case:
Plaintiff attorney: “In the hierarchy of rule violations, these are pretty ticky-tacky”
United witness: “I don’t agree.”
Plaintiff attorney: “For example, watching an iPad for a few minutes is certainly less serious than lighting a campfire in the bathroom of a flight when it’s at 35,000 feet.”
United witness: “No, I disagree with that.”
Plaintiff attorney: “Seriously? You think lighting a campfire in the bathroom is as serious as watching an iPad for a few minutes?”
United witness: “Yes.”
The jury was visibly amused, with some jurors rolling their eyes. Here, United lost the case.
That an absurd question. They really must have scored some real dumb jurors. United’s attorneys clearly didn’t do a very good job.
I disagree, I think the question was designed to make the United witness appear unreasonable in the eyes of the jury and it worked. Lighting a fire in an airplane bathroom is much more serious than watching a movie on an iPad for a few minutes. The lawyer picked up on the United witness intransigence and use it against them to demonstrate to the jury how ridiculous their position was. It was a catch 22 situation and once the lawyer had the witness on the hook all they had to do at that point was reel them in and that exactly what they did with that question they reeled in the United witness and the jury at the same time. United in my opinion should have known a question like this would come up and should have prepped the witness.
You’re not wrong, and I agree with you on their strategy… But it depends on dumb jurors. I think lots of intelligent people would have been able to see what they were doing, and never would have been selected as a juror.
It’s a smart question, if it elicits an absurd answer showing the jury an absurd policy.
But no such policy was in place. The plaintiffs made it up, then convinced the jury of it, hence my outrage…and UA’s attorneys were too stupid to rebut it. See, this isn’t about discrimination. I’m also fully against employment discrimination against a protected class. This is about allegations of discrimination that were not even true. Not even disparate impact was proven, in my estimation. Good thing for them I wasn’t on the jury.
Let’s be clear here. The United witness was the supervisor who wrote them up during the flight. He wasn’t coached properly by United council as to how to come across as sincere and well…human. I know the supervisor who testified and I can assure you he lacks any kind of warmth that you’d hope to find in another human being. His testimony cost United the case (and subsequently the cash award). I’m honestly surprised he still has a job.
it is hard to believe that the FA’s won. But is showcases my thoughts that it is always better to settle than have your case go before judge or jury. You totally loose managment of the case when you turn it over to them, and these kind of surprise verdicts happen way more than you think.
This perfectly illustrates why service is often poor on US carriers. The FA admitted that poor service is commonplace, and that served as reasonable evidence to a jury that ultimately led to a large award that United had to pay. What can United do? It seems they have no mechanism to enforce their policies. If I were an FA, I guess I’d just be rude and do nothing too… Well, I wouldn’t be rude, but I might watch movies and give my friends in the back free cocktails.
In the past 2-3 years of United heavy handed firing of FA. This is a win for the FAs. United has taken the “take no prisoners approach”.
Smoking an E cig inflight, not standing in your assigned demo position during the safety demo (isn’t the primary reason for FA to reinforce safety) ,,..and you call that “heavy handed firing”…..really?
How is smoking an e-cigarette on a plane not a serious violation? I would not consider that minor like watching an Ipad. Smoking on a plane is a violation of federal law.
They probably kicked off anyone that flies a lot from the jury pool. That left a jury pool with ignorant people, even if the jury pool had good intentions. That would be like choosing us fliers to be on a trial against space attendants on flights between Earth and Jupiter. We wouldn’t have a clue what is good or bad.
There’s another element. Lee is black and his fast-talking attorney was black. This second incarnation of Johnnie Cochran along with white guilt also helped the flight attendants win their case.
Any company that fires one employee for a infraction and does not fire another for the same infraction deserves what the got.I am retired from one of the biggest companies in the world and witness this many times.Many times a worker who came up from the bottom got passed over from a promotion for some new employee who had a college degree. In most cases that college degree employee was terrible at that job,but instead of firing them they promoted them to a position they could handle…..big company good old boys rules….
I think this may be a case where you’re not as familiar with how HR works in very large corporations. It is absolutely not enough to just break rules, unless they are the most serious violations (clearcut harassment, actions that endanger safety, theft, etc). Most large HR orgs require significant notice and opportunity to correct before you fire someone. So if they are selectively firing people for offenses that seem relatively minor and where in practice (regardless of policy) they don’t result in termination, the employees would have grounds for a case, and I’m not surprised they could win it.
Which law school did you go to again?
This sounds similar to a seminal case we studied in law school in which building city codes were selectively enforced only against the Asian-owned businesses. Yes, the Asian owned businesses clearly broke the law, but the courts found that the selective enforcement of such laws only against Asian-owned businesses resulted in a disparate discriminatory impact against the Asian-owned businesses. Here, it sounds like we have a case of selective enforcement against older flight attendants. Under the law, it absolutely does matter when laws/regulations are selectively enforced in a way that results in a disparate impact against a protected group.
But there is a difference between alleging it and proving it.
It’s a civil suit. You don’t have to “prove” it, you just have to get a jury to believe that you’re 51% likely to be right.
Indeed, if selective enforcement against protected groups were allowed, that would result in the perverse outcome that employers would essentially be given license to discriminate against any protected group. For example, if I were an employer who wanted to discriminate against black employees, I could make a bunch of difficult rules but only enforce them against the black employees. The author’s point is that selective enforcement does not matter — rather, what matters is merely that the employees broke the rules. If that were the case, then employers would essentially be given free reign to discriminate through selective rule enforcement. In other words, we would essentially be legalizing this type of discrimination.
SNITCHES GET STICHES. Or in this case snitches cause a $2 million settlement. No one likes a snitch. If its a safety issue I 100% agree. But watching a movie on an Ipad , meh. As for the 10th circuit opinion they were 100% correct. United’s appeal lacked any real merit, they just didn’t like the jury verdict of the district court. A good lawyer is key to surviving in business in today’s age. The FA’s attorney was brilliant, and UA attorneys committed a few unforced errors. That all being said, age discrimination is a really hard one to judge. Sounds like the FA’s were lazy. Basically unless you are a young white male (full disclosure Im a middle aged white Gay male) you are likely part of some protective class. That fact alone keeps plaintiffs lawyers VERY happy
So many standing with “snitches get stiches” (I suspect a strong US unionised flight attendant dissemination of this article) and applaud a system where smoking an E cig inflight, not standing in your assigned demo position during the safety demo and watching an iPad (on a domestic flight with no assigned breaks per reader comments). Then the eerily close to victim/witness blaming ” I know the supervisor who testified and I can assure you he lacks any kind of warmth that you’d hope to find in another human being.”
So where does this leave the frequent flier community that chronically despairs about the state of US airline inflight service and attitudes? Do you bother writing to complain? Have you ensured the complaint is not against a person of age, colour or ethnicity knowing the airline should not pursue it? Did you provide a sufficient sampling of same to ensure the airline can display fairness in how they were dealt with? Do you even have the adequate warmth to be a valid complainant?! As a layman, if you are unhappy with an escalated legal outcome do you acknowledge that you need to be silent as your legal qualifications will be openly queried. Absurd. America, you deserve your service levels. You have created them.
Agreed. It’s so absurd.
I always laugh at all the lawyers here pushing the idea that, “This is what a good attorney can do.” They never stop selling the corrupt and cancerous legal system in this country that promotes the idea of it being a football game with glory being just a good lawyer (Likening it to a Quarterback) away. The result, everyone ends up suing each other, winning little in the end (losing often) as they pocket their fees whilst laughing.
I’m not selling it as in advocating for it; I agree it is lamentable. But attorney matters — that is hardly debatable.
I think the decision was the right one. United could have brought up similar cases of all ages where they fired the FAs on the first offense and without warning. Either they did not have those cases or they had incompetent lawyers. United will fight similar cases in the future better. A notice to correct should have been given for the e-cigarette. Per another article, Lee and Stroup not only had long careers, they had not been disciplined during them. I would be more interested in how Lee and Stroup treated the customers. If they were competent and pleasant, United should have worked on retaining them instead of backfilling their positions with unknown FAs. Age discrimination is real but most don’t really understand it until they are older and trying to get hired.
Although it is a complicated situation with doling out different punishments, your claims are valid. The consequence of a system that constantly maintains the same penalty for the same crime is that there becomes very little room for humanity. A single mother was 5 minutes late? We can’t cut her any slack because the 20-somethings who don’t care enough to show up on time will expect the same leniency. These flight attendants knew how to play the system, they were waiting for termination, and they wanted to milk the company for as long as possible. To be unable to hold them accountable in their situation because you previously demonstrated a willingness to work with other employees is exceptionally disappointing.
Such hate expressed by you Matthew! I’m surprised.
A jury of reasonable peers decided in the geriatrics favor. Any company that skips required steps in discipline (you call it irrelevant leniency) is suspect.
Could you as a business owner feel your power taken away when any of your older employees lose a step?
Your Kraut sense of control is showing. History details how Germans loved to eat feces (Google it), time you ate some now…..
Lazy flight attendants rewarded for being lazy. Not something I can celebrate.
in 35 yrs at the friendly skies I have seen many union employees walked off their jobs. some get it back…most front line supervisors have no training in this process and don’t bother reading the contract of the workers they are in charge of. the process is spelled out and if followed seals the deal. problems arise when rules aren’t consistent due to “friends of program” sups . I have served on 3 jury’s ( 1 federal , 2 local county) and a lot of people spend alot time getting out of serving so I don’t know what that says about jury pool talent
I have never seen an author reply back to comments on their aeticles in this manner. These types of supplies generally highlight personal imsecurities. Bad article, bad logic. Seems like a corporate advocate to me, not for the people. You write here as if UA is a person equal to the attedents rather than millionaire shareholders.
Also UA did not follow policy of progressive discipline. Case closed. Or have you never been in a basoc umemployment hearing?
You are obviously not a regular reader. I also reply to comments. Have for over 13 years. I don’t like FAs who game the system.
And there the shoe drops. You’re defending an absurd position employing specious arguments because God forbid employees using scant few advantages they have. FYI workers in every industry have their versions of gaming the system, and if you get mad at them instead of a system, then you’re fully worthy of the epithet someone called you earlier in the comments section.. a bootlicker.
Nothing bizarre here. It’s certainly not the first time UA has been accused of pretextual terminations of senior flight attendants. And I’m not at all surprised a jury disbelieved UA’s explanation. Moreover, the Court of Appeal’s determination was clearly proper under the applicable legal standard, i.e., whether there was evidence sufficient to support the jury’s finding of pretext. This is a good example why these types of cases usually settle.
Go back to school Matthew, They lost in the lower court and the upper 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Upper Court determined UA’s explanation for firing was, “Not Credible” and that “Pretext” exists when an employer does not honestly represent reasons for termination. The internal investigative process prior to these 2 FA’s being terminated is nothing but a Kangaroo Court with same actor evidence.
Matthew Klint is a liar and the headline is a lie. They were NOT fired for watching an iPAD when they should have been serving customers. They were watching an iPAD while on a break. They were considered “on duty” but were not supposed to be available to passengers.
The jury rolled their eyes at the lame excuse because they weren’t really fired for the purported reasons. It’s not like being pulled over for running a red light. It’s like having 1000 people run a red light with a cop watching, who ignores all of them, and then pulls over an old person, gives him a ticket, watches 1000 other people run a red light, and then pulls over an old person who entered the intersection just as the light was changing.
When a person who has over 30,000 hours of flight experience without a single complaint is fired for watching an iPAD during his break time, and serving customers while not wearing an apron, despite a spotless record since 1978, the jury will want to know why. The airline can’t claim that it’s because of those actions if they don’t routinely fire people for that. The jury will look at what the firings have in common, and IN EVERY SINGLE CASE, it was an older employee.
I’m sure that Matthew Klint sincerely believes what he is saying, but when people argue that somebody deserved to be punished for breaking a rule knowing full well that they themselves wouldn’t have been punished for the same thing, the argument is specious. Something is not a reason for something if that thing doesn’t normally result in a given action.
Matthew, you are aware United is responsible for the longest bankruptcy protection in aviation history and the largest pension default in world history? A few milliseconds out of unblemished careers spanning decades ultimately signified, “Nothing” to Judge & Jury. You should go investigate the Fee Schedule of the firm UA engaged, the most expensive in Denver.
Yes, that’s criminal in my opinion and Tilton’s homes and portfolios should be confiscated until employees are paid back.
That doesn’t change my disdain for lazy FAs nor does unloading UA pension on PBGC justify breaking protocols.
Matthew, When it comes to 1. Customer Service and 2. IN-House Discipline both FA’s had records that are “Flawless” categorically. One of the FA’s had over 30,000 flight hours without a single missed check in. Calling someone, “Lazy” that has been working longer than you have been alive is ludicrous.
There is never an excuse to do what those two did. Will you defend their conduct?
There are so many issues left out of this discussion. First younger flight attendants are making less than half what Older Senior flight attendants make therefore giving United a incentive to get rid of costlier employees. United has made a push to try to get the more expensive flight attendants to retire. Second United has a discipline policy in place for flight attendants that follows a “steps of discipline” leading to the final step of termination. There are exceptions that can lead to immediate termination, none of their actions were in the ” immediate termination” category. There were no safety of flight volations. They watched a video after completing service but still responded to call buttons, customer requests, and required cabin walk throughs at company mandated intervals. Unprofessional requiring discipline yes but never at the cost of passenger safety. Third if a safety video was shown as opposed to a manual demo flight attendant are not to required stand in a designated position. They are supposed to only be completing safty issues however circumstances aren’t mentioned. Was plane catered late, was it a “quick turn” were they were catching up with duties.
Other notable unmentioned circumstances are why did flight attendant give out a free miniature. Did the customer change a aisle seat for a middle seat at the crews request to allow them to accommodate a family? There are many reasons to give a inexpensive miniature out to acknowledge a customer discomfort. That’s good customer service. The lack of mid flight water service, let’s examine that issue. You failed to mention this is during a pandemic. Water bottles were in high demand and often to complete that mid flight service supplies were not left for the last service before landing. During the pandemic many catering stations closed, and supplies often were lacking for flight crews. The final flight service leaves more of a lasting impression then mid flight when many customers sleep, read, watch movies. There are so many variables that a seasoned flight attendant with experience can gage better than a newer flight attendant or supervisor who doesn’t work flights. You mentioned they weren’t in the aisle enough. These flight attendants were risking their own health everyday to accommodate customers who continuously pulled their masks down when speaking to flight attendants. There seems to be a lack of addressing that they were at risk everyday and the airlines only allowed them to have the basic protective items when the FAA mandates became protocol. Before that requests from flight attendants and their unions were denied. Flight Attendants weren’t even allowed to wear gloves when picking up trash. Steps of discipline were issued if they implemented basic common sense tactics to protect themselves.
You mentioned them sitting on carriers. Flight Attendants work usually between 12 to 14 hours a day and often with delays longer. Often with little sleep due to delays. They domestically seldom entitled to even a 15 minute break. They have no were but the galley to try to quickly eat a meal if there is anything to eat. Due to the pandemic many hotels and airport restaurants were food once was readily available were in closed or flight attendants had no time to wait in long lines as they needed to report to their next aircraft. In a 14 day if you were entitled to crew meal it was only one meal in 14 hours that could consist of a small container of corn flakes, a muffin and yogurt. Not all hotels had refrigerators for packed food and packing food for 4 days along with all your personal and work items can require magician like skills.
Lastly once United due to the pandemic had a over staffing of flight attendants, they suddenly started siticataing passengers to comment on their flight crews. This in combination with secret check rides by supervisors sounds great in theory. The problem is when weeks later a flight attendant gets a report saying they didn’t accomplish a required duty without the accuser ever checking if there was a reason such as not receiving items needed to accomplish duty.
The majority of flight attendants I know are proud to deliver the highest level of service. These same flight attendants can only work with what is available and allowed. There were just so many questions unanswered in your comintary. What if you had to write a column with nothing but a crayon and scratch paper in the middle of a covid ward.
I think that there is a lot of ignorance out there about what flight attendants really do. A flight attendant’s primary responsibility is the safety of the passengers. While part of this is helping keep them satisfied with sugar or snacks, this is very secondary. As the husband of a flight attendant, I can tell you that they do not get enough credit for helping avoid flight delays and potential catastrophies due to passenger misbehavior and general ignorance. People lose their common sense on flights.
The flight attendants are there to ensure they don’t do something that could jeopardize the flight or the passengers. The next time you see a flight attendant on your flight, you should thank them for saving your hiney from catastrophy.
I’m reposting because I don’t want the lead to get buried…. Let’s be clear here. The United witness was the supervisor who wrote them up during the flight. He wasn’t coached properly by United council as to how to come across as sincere and well…human. I know the supervisor who testified and I can assure you he lacks any kind of warmth that you’d hope to find in another human being. His testimony cost United the case (and subsequently the cash award). I’m honestly surprised he still has a job AND to top it off he was recently promoted. Proof that you can cost your company millions and still have a career.
Go read the real news on this case including the interview of the prevailing attorney! The lower Court ruled in favor of the Plaintiff. The upper Court ruled in favor of the Plaintiff. They had 71 years of combined, “Unblemished Service” and even if they did NOT the contract between the Union and UA asserts, “A Contractual Law of Progressive Discipline and NO Serious Single Offense shall result in Termination” categorically. The Upper Court made the following determination in the reply brief: 1. Explanation for firing is NOT credible 2. RESPONSIBLE people could NOT arrive at a contrary verdict 3. Pretext exists when and employer does NOT honestly represent it’s reason for terminating. During the timeline on the lower court trial CEO Oscar Munoz was CONVICTED of stealing $25,000 of Florida Public Beach sand and Global Sales Director Jake Cefolia was engaged in child pornography. WAKE UP!
If I was a Flight Attendant at United – I would drop any trip where I had to work with Sheila Simms. Instead of reporting them, all she had to do was ask them to assist the other flight attendants.
If the flight attendants won on Age Discrimination, it was because they were able to prove that YOUNGER flight attendants did the same thing – and instead of being terminated, they were written up. They were treated DIFFERENTLY because of their age. Simple as that.