While my initial reaction was that of incredulity, I will reserve all judgment in a lawsuit that pits United Airlines against a former pilot who was terminated by the company after he applied for disability due to being color blind…after less than two months on the job.
Color Blind Pilot Sues United Airlines For Termination
Damon Meyer became a United Airlines pilot on April 12, 2022. But less than one month later he grounded himself after having trouble distinguishing colors, particularly landing lights and other signals on taxiways.
A day later, he made a claim for colorblindness through United’s long-term disability program.
This all came just six days after enrollment in a new instance plan.
Ok, let’s stop here.
Sounds suspicious, doesn’t it? There’s no denying it. The guy goes from working IT to being a commercial pilot, spends less than one month on the job, grounds himself, and tries to go on long-term disability. Are we really to believe that this all came about at the last second? That he accurately disclosed no preexisting conditions on his insurance form six days earlier?
My answer is that we must be careful before making any conclusions and that circumstantial evidence can be misleading.
It’s not like Meyer just waltzed into United and sat down in the cockpit, right? He had to pass a rigorous medical test. Presumably, colorblindness was checked for since it is so essential in navigating through airports and airspace. And since Meyer had been a pilot for years, he presumably had to pass many medical tests.
This suggests his colorblindness was not congenital but acquired. As unlikely as it is, it is possible that this all came about once he was hired or even after he signed up for insurance. But you can bet United’s legal team is trolling through his social media postings to look for any hint of knowledge that he was colorblind before he was hired by United.
Does that mean United should have to pay him disability? I’d say the legal and the moral/ethical answers may diverge…
A United pilot was sidelined after less than one month on the job for colorblindness and terminated when he filed for disability insurance. He now claims to be “totally disabled” and his lawsuit claims United must pay for his care.
(H/T: Paddle Your Own Kanoo)
I would imagine that this pilot was on his probationary period and can be dismissed without cause and ALPA would not intervene.
He’s suing the wrong entity……He should go after the U.S. Government (FAA) who set the rules for All Pilots…..This should not be a “Wrongful Discharge” case !!!! The decision to Hire is based on the pilot applicant having Passed a 1st class Medical certificate…..Period !!!!! Apparently, he fooled Doctors ??????
I would call this a prudent measure on the side of United. He can always make millions off of this law suit, open up a pizza chain and be deliriously happy. On the other hand, if he were to cause an accident or be one of the main factors in one, it would be tragic and irresponsible. Better err on the side of caution and human safety to prevent future tragedies than lament one.
Perhaps it’s a case of “Hysterical Color Blindness”…
He grounded himself at least. Yes, this seems to have been planned, however he truly could have just discovered his color blindness while piloting commercial aircraft. If so, I’d think that this would have been discovered much earlier in the hiring/training process. Because his color blindness was not discovered, than who else slipped past and is now flying with a handicap that keeps them from flying fully safe.
Of course you would come to the defense of this guy who belongs behind bars for endangering passengers and fraud.
There are many color blind pilots flying. Although it’s initially a failure point on the FAA physical, the applicant can pass by demonstrating their ability. Not necessarily an unsafe situation.
I used to litigate long-term disability cases. I would be curious to see how (and which doctor) diagnosed him with colorblindness after he became eligible for benefits. I had several cases where NYSE traders who made their $$ from interpreting hand signals and getting a hum for what others on the floor were doing, but developed “hearing problems” when electronic trading became commonplace. The old times claimed their occupation was being a floor trader, not an online trader (that’s another story) and an “internal auditory processing disorder” caused hearing loss that precluded them from performing the material duties of a “floor trader.” Not surprisingly, the internal auditory processing disorder was one that could not be confirmed by any objective test. All objective tests of the ear, brainwaves, etc. show the brain reacting to hearing noise without a problem. The person continues to say they have significant hearing loss. Their doctors say for unknown reasons the brain is not processing the signals in such a way that allows the patient from actually hearing what the ear drum and the brain pick up and respond to. Basically it was, “I don’t want to learn online trading. I won’t be as good at it and I’ll be surpassed by younger folks, so I’ll make this up to get disability based on last year’s income. I wonder if there is a similar alleged form of colorblindness that is not detectable by any objective tests and essentially you just take the person’s word for it.
For your amusement. Back in the 1980’s, my sister’s father-in-law went on disability for a hernia, I believe, and he nonetheless went out hunting and got his photo in the newspaper hauling around a prize buck. He didn’t get nailed amazingly enough. Back in the days of “social media” involving physical paper.
What isn’t being mentioned is that he was on probation for his first year of employment. You can be let go for no reason during your probationary year. Not being able to fly after you accepted a job as a pilot for an airline before you’ve even completed initial training seems justified. If he were smarter he would’ve waited until his probationary year was finished and then filled.
Sounds to me he wants to make tax free insurance money until he reaches legal retirement age, currently 65. I’m guessing he’ll go back to his old tech job and double his income. Doesn’t sound too disabled to me.
He made a claim for long term disability the next day?
I’m on United long term disability. It’s a big deal to establish. He surely had this planned from before he was hired. It just doesn’t go that fast.
Not likely he ‘discovered’ it while flying big jets….the exact same runway and taxiway and warning lights are on ALL runways and cockpits….total bull feces….
Yes, you are tested for colorblindness at every FAA medical exam starting when you are a student pilot. He would have taken these tests several times over the years. Not to mention he would have had plenty of night flying experience. You have to fly at night starting when you are a student in order to obtain a private pilot certificate, then again while pursuing a commercial pilot certificate. Then build another 1,000 to 1,500 hours flying general aviation aircraft, including 100 hours at night, before you can be eligible for an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate. After accomplishing all this, he then flew a 50-seat jet for United Express for four years, flying to many of the same airports as mainline United does. In other words, he did not just wake up one day and get a job as a United pilot. He had many years of experience flying jets and small general aviation aircraft and would have gone through many medical examinations. So after all these years of experience, he gets hired by mainline United, is offered long-term disability insurance for the first time (the express carriers don’t offer it) and immediately, while he’s still in training, realizes he can’t fly because he is colorblind?
You hit the nail on the head, as a person with partial color blindness my first real issue was in the Air Force. I had to take a special test, not the standard cards. After the military the FAA gave me a special test and gave me a demostraded wavier for color vision. You either have it or not, if you have partial color blindness you could possibly exasperate it with several different drugs. Don’t ask me what they are. Happily retired here, to think I could have been on disability for most of my career. Instead I fought tooth and nail to keep healthy and my class I physical.
I wonder if this could be a “diversity” hire. United falls all over themselves to claim diversity and hire based on that and not merit. He’s on probation and can be fired for cause, he should have read the pilot contract and waited until he passed probation.
He could be just lying too to fake failing the tests. You don’t just one day go color blind.
The only thing I can think of would be if he developed Optic Neuritis, which can certainly impact the way the color red is seen. It can come on suddenly.
Optic Neuritis is experienced in Multiple Sclerosis, Neuromyelitis Optica, Transverse Myelitis, and in some Vasculitis disorders.
But it rarely occurs in both eyes simultaneously.