Best Ohio FMLA Attorney and Top Cleveland Disability Discrimination Lawyer: Does my employer have to give me time off to get medical treatment for my disability? How do I get time off under the Family Medical Leave Act? Are pilots and flight crew covered under the FMLA?
Just last month, a Germanwings plane crashed carrying 150 people, killing everyone on board. We now know that the co-pilot, who by all appearances seemed healthy, actually suffered from severe mental illness which caused him to deliberately steer Flight 9525 into the French Alps. Apparently he hid his mental illness from his former employer.
Everyone is waiting for the first lawsuits related to the Germanwings catastrophe to be filed. But the compensation claims brought by the families of the people killed are not the only sorts of claims that Germanwings might need to defend itself against.
Just three days after the catastrophe, a former JetBlue airline pilot sued his employer in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. During a flight that occurred on March 27, 2012, the pilot left the cockpit and began running up and down the aisles, “ranting concerning imagined terrorism and the need for all on board to embrace religion.” The passengers and crew subdued the pilot and locked him out of the cockpit. He suffered physical injuries, lost his job, lost his pilot’s license, and was charged with various federal crimes punishable by up to 20 years of imprisonment. In addition, several passengers recorded the pilot’s actions and posted them to social media sites.
The pilot claims that the airline was negligent because it knew or should have known that he was “physically and mentally unfit to fly” based on his behavior on the day of the incident at issue, including his disheveled appearance, his inefficiency in performing preflight checks, and his overall “disoriented” demeanor. According to the pilot, if JetBlue had simply not allowed him to fly that day, he could have privately received the medical treatment he needed. Instead, he was embarrassed publicly, his pilot’s license was revoked, he faced criminal charges, his career was destroyed, and his own life and the lives of the crew and 135 passengers were unnecessarily endangered.
Of course, the pilot could have avoided all of this by just calling in sick and getting help on his own. Had he asked his employer for time off under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). In On December 21, 2009, the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act (“AFCTCA”) was signed into law by President Obama effect and created different hours of service eligibility requirement for airline flight attendants and flight crew members. Airline flight attendants and flight crew members continue to be subject to the FMLA’s other eligibility requirements. The AFCTCA states that flight attendants and flight crew members meet the hours of service requirement if for being eligible under the FMLA, if during the previous 12-month period, he or she (1) has worked or been paid for not less than 60 percent of the applicable total monthly guarantee (or its equivalent), and (2) has worked or been paid for not less than 504 hours, not including personal commute time, or time spent on vacation, medical, or sick leave. More recently, on March 8, 2013, the Final Rule on the AFCTCA from the Department of Labor (“DOL”) took effect and give flight attendants and flight crews an even lower work hours threshold to qualify for FMLA coverage than other employees. (Also read: Am I eligible for FMLA?)
But that was not his only option if he did not qualify. As our employment attorneys have blogged about before, employer must consider giving time off as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
On the other hand, our employment lawyers have blogged that employees can be fired for making threats or creating a dangerous situation because of or related to a mental disability. Moreover, physical injuries by employees are exclusively resolved under the Worker’s Compensation statutes, except where there is willfulness or intent to injure on the part of the employer – a very difficult standard to prove in Ohio, at least.
Ten passengers on the flight previously sued JetBlue via a negligence theory. But now this pilot is testing the limits of an employer’s duty by asking a court to rule that JetBlue had a duty to protect the pilot from himself. We’ll let you know how it turns out. Our employment lawyers would not have taken this case at this point. What the pilot should have done was called the best employment attorney that he could find before stepping onto that plane and getting advice as to his rights under the FMLA and ADA. As a result, he has no ADA or FMLA claims and has to rely on very difficult breach of implied contract and negligence claims.
So, what is this employee looking for in his lawsuit against his employer?
Captain Osbon seeks damages for the foregoing conduct equal to lost wages from March 27, 2012 through his expected retirement at age 65in an amount not less than $4,852,800 ($303,300 x16 years) plus appropriate increases for promotions and raises and 9%interest from the date of breach in addition to annual profit sharing benefits equal to a minimum of 5% of Captain Osbon’s annual income, disability, medical and life insurance benefits, 401k contribution matching, and flight benefits (Captain Osbon and his immediate family could fly for free on JetBlue flights and at steep discounts on certain other airlines’ flights). … Captain Osbon further seeks $2,426,400 for the permanent damage to his reputation, and$4,852,800 for punitive damages. … Captain Osbon further seeks$100,000 for physical injury damages and $2,426,400 for emotional distress damages.
So all in all, he wants $20 million because he disrupted a flight and blames his employer for not stopping him.
Pie in the sky. Pie in the sky. But, I guess that is the irony because that is where all of this started, in the sky.
If you feel that you are being denied leave rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or are being retaliated against for taking medical leave, you should call the right attorney as quickly as possible. If you are disabled or your employer perceives you as being disabled; and you have been fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied wages, or even think that you might need a disability discrimination lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Call our Ohio employment law attorneys at (216) 291-4744. The best option is not to wait. The Spitz Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting employees’ rights under ADA, FMLA, and Ohio employment law.
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