Two veteran United flight attendants won US$800,000 in a lawsuit after a supervisor made an absurd claim about iPads
A United supervisor said he thought lighting a fire in an airplane bathroom was as serious as one of the reasons for the firing: watching a video on an iPad for 15 minutes
By Mark Matousek
Ruben Lee and Jeanne Stroup had worked as flight attendants for United Airlines for over 70 combined years when they were fired in September 2013.
Neither had received a single customer complaint or been disciplined at any point during their time with the airline, according to a lawsuit they filed against United, but when a supervisor observed them watching a video on an iPad for 15 minutes and neglecting to wear aprons when serving passengers on a September 2013 flight from Denver to San Francisco, the airline decided to let them go.
Now, Lee and Stroup have been awarded US$800,000 in damages, and David Lane, the duo’s attorney, thinks that number could rise, according to Westword.
Lane believes United has no guidelines for matching employee misbehaviour to an appropriate punishment, and he told Westword about an alleged exchange during the trial that may have helped sway the jury toward Lee and Stroup’s side.
While questioning a United supervisor, Lane reportedly called the reasons for Lee and Stroup’s firing “pretty ticky-tacky.”
The supervisor disagreed, to which Lane replied, “For example, watching an iPad for a few minutes is certainly less serious than lighting a campfire in the bathroom of a flight when it’s at 35,000 feet.”
“No, I disagree with that,” the supervisor reportedly said.
After Lane asked the supervisor if he thought “lighting a campfire in the bathroom is as serious as watching an iPad for a few minutes,” the supervisor reportedly said, “Yes.”
The trial’s resolution couldn’t come at a worse time for United, which has struggled to rehabilitate its image in the year since it sparked a public relations nightmare by dragging a passenger off an overbooked flight. Last week, the airline had three dog-related mishaps that resulted in the death of one dog and two being placed on incorrect flights.
United did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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