Over 12 employees are suing their former employer, United Airlines, for firing them after they refused to fly on a Boeing 747 after they discovered that someone had written the words “Bye Bye” and two happy faces on the tail of the plane. The flight was set to go from San Francisco International Airport to Hong Kong. According to the Belmont Patch, the flight attendants set to work on that flight discovered the “threatening words and menacing images” shortly before the flight, and requested that the airline conduct an inspection to confirm that there were no bombs on the plane. The airline refused to conduct the additional inspection, and so the flight attendants refused to fly on the jet. The flight attendants were thereafter allegedly fired by United for insubordination. The former employees hired a law firm to file a “whistleblower complaint” with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as the Department of Labor (DOL), claiming that they were retaliated against for trying to protect themselves and the passengers of the plane-in-question from endangerment. United alleges that it conducted all the appropriate inspections on the plane, including a security sweep, making the additional inspection (requested by the flight attendants) unnecessary.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are prohibited under federal law from firing (or retaliating against) an employee for raising a safety or health concern with the employer. Employers are also provided whistleblower protection under California labor law, which protects an employee who reports a reasonable belief of unsafe working conditions in the employment’s workplace.