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Airline firings trigger wrongful termination case

Because the aviation industry affects us all in one way or another, Missouri residents may be interested in learning about a case involving the recent alleged wrongful termination of over a dozen flight attendants.

This month, 13 flight attendants formerly employed by United Airlines filed formal complaints with the Department of Labor after they allege that they were terminated wrongfully in October 2014. The case stems from an incident that occurred last summer in San Francisco.

The petition states plaintiffs lost their jobs for refusing to work a flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong after glimpsing what they perceived as "menacing" images and "threatening" words inscribed on the aircraft's tail cone. The crew was conducting its pre-flight preparations and discovered that an unknown person used motor oil to write the words "BYE BYE" in half-foot high letters beside a couple of faces. One was described as "smiling;" the other with a "more troubling devilish expression."

Their federal complaint alleges the flight attendants informed United that they felt "uncomfortable flying unless United took steps to address this security threat," which included deplaning more than 300 passengers while the plane was thoroughly searched for explosives.

The incident occurred shortly after the very puzzling and still unsolved disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 without a trace, and one week after the Transportation Safety Administration had issued its warning regarding potential threats of bombs in consumers' electronic devices. The flight attendants contend that, due to the aforementioned, they had a "heightened duty and legal responsibility" to ensure the flight's safety.

Plaintiffs claim that the airline ignored the potentially serious safety threat and ordered them to fly anyway because deplaning and re-routing passengers would be expensive and disruptive to the airline, their attorney maintains. The airline reiterated that their own safety and flight operations teams found no credible safety threat.

United is accused of bullying and firing the attendants in retaliation. They seek reinstatement, compensatory damages and back pay.

Others in similar circumstances may benefit from consulting with a Missouri employment law attorney.

Source: CNN, "Flight attendants complained about 'menacing' images on aircraft" Rene Marsh, Jan. 12, 2015

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