A pilot is suing United Airlines in the Los Angeles Superior Court for a long list of claims, including disability discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination. The pilot was sacked by United Airlines for refusing to comply with the airline’s contentious COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
After being fired in December of last year for “false and pretextual” reasons, Andrew Risk filed a complaint against the airline late last month, seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
When the seasoned pilot was identified as having COVID-19 in August 2021, United Airlines had just become the first airline in the country to mandate a broad range of vaccinations. The veteran pilot had been employed by United Airlines for more than 14 years and was operating out of its Los Angeles base at the time.
Risk, who was at the time unvaccinated, experienced the typical COVID-19 symptoms, such as loss of taste and smell and respiratory difficulties. The 48-year-old pilot’s flight was canceled, and he was instructed to stay home until his sense of smell returned.
A month later, Risk visited with a specialized airmen medical examiner who informed him that he couldn’t work again because of his infection-related bad lungs and ongoing breathing problems.
As a result of United’s vaccination requirement, Danger claims he inquired about having the COVID immunization at the same visit. However, the doctor recommended him against it since it could put him at risk of “serious injury.”
Risk told the Chief Pilot at United’s LAX base about his need for a leave of absence and asked for one, but he was shortly called for a meeting due to his disregard for the vaccination requirement. As a result of Risk’s recent diagnosis, it was allegedly decided to postpone that meeting. However, Risk afterward requested a longer-term vaccine exemption.
United informed Risk that his request for a medical exemption had been denied in late October 2021, but at further meetings with the airline, Risk claims he produced medical evidence demonstrating his inability to receive the necessary vaccinations.
Risk was informed that he had been fired for failing to get vaccinated on December 16, 2021.
Approximately 67,000 of United Airlines’ employees were subject to the vaccine mandate, which the airline claims helped them reach a vaccination rate of more than 98%. The rule, according to CEO Scott Kirby, helped keep employees healthy and alive during the early 2022 Omicron surge.
200 employees were dismissed for not receiving the vaccine or being denied an exemption, while 2,200 employees received a religious or medical vaccination exemption. The airline only approved 63 percent of petitions for medical exemptions.
The majority of frontline workers who were granted an exemption were put on unpaid leave in November 2021 but were given permission to resume work in March 2022. A vaccination requirement is no longer in effect at United.