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Firing Flight Attendants Who Watched an iPad May Cost United $1.5 Million

Despite having more than seventy years of combined experience working for United Airlines, flight attendants Ruben Lee and Jeanne Stroup were fired by the carrier for watching a video on an iPad for approximately fifteen minutes and failing to wear aprons during one flight in September 2013. But while folks at the company may have thought they'd save money by sacking two veteran employees, they were wrong. A jury has awarded Lee and Stroup $800,000 in damages, and attorney David Lane, who… ( More...

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Jack Jouett 47
The folks in the United PR department must be exhausted
Chris King 11
That job must be worse than the White House Press Secretary!
canuck44 10
This was a no brainer except for the gang that cannot shoot straight.United is lucky they only had to deal with the two flight attendants. It could have been one of the federal alphabet agencies.
Morris Floyd 9
First of all, this firing happened before the use of handhelds by F/A was common. Be that as it may, the action was completely out of proportion to the alleged offense. Most likely someone wanted these people out for another reason (union activism?), and the court quite properly said no.
Mike Petro 3
Most likely they were fired for trivial reasons because they were senior employees and likely at the top tier of their compensation. Honestly, if the "offenses" had been serious, I doubt that they would have waited so long to terminate them.

I've never been in a union and I don't see how that helped these employees. At any rate, without unions, most companies provide at-will employment, i.e. they can fire you for anything they want and, if you feel you were unfairly treated, your only recourse is to sue them for wrongful termination.

It's happened to me. My last job was with an engine test equipment company, as their sole representative in the US and Canada for their gas turbine product line, handling all OEM and MRO accounts. I was hired because the previous rep refused to travel, which didn't work for long term capital equipment sales cycles. I spend about 50% of my time traveling for the first 2 years to re-establish relationships and around 15-25% ongoing to maintain them and for projects.

I was terminated by a new GM for the US-based operation, in my opinion, because all of my cost was borne by the local office while 90% of the revenue I generated went to corporate. I got no severance package and had to sue them just to get what would have been reasonable at most companies.
1BabyGirl 16
One would think that by now companies would realize and know that they can't do this kind of thing to employees. But then, United seems to be having more problems than they can handle lately.I avoid flying United like the plague and have since the 1980's. But for those that do use United, I just hope that the idiocy and incompetence does not extend to those on the flight deck. With all these issues past and present, one has to wonder.
Dan Grelinger -1
The lesson to be learned here is that juries don't understand the law.

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John Rumble 11
Scott Walker , Is that you?
WIllard Kramer 14
you're an anti union asshole... guess what got you your days off, your national holidays, safety standards, standard pay.... child labor laws, labor laws....
WIllard Kramer 12
ps firing people for wanting better jobs and standards.... sounds like you work for assholes too.
bpanther 2
Well said, Willard Kramer ! Yes, RECOR10 IS AND ASSHOLE !! Flight attendants are human too and need some entertainment too. Long hours in the sky are not conducive to health, without some sort of diversion of mind.
You think pilots ONLY watch their iPads for work related stuff??
Flight attendants too have their work related schedules, flight-safety revisions, etc., on their iPads.

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I used to "work healthcare" and yes, we got holidays off. Maybe not on the holiday itself but on another day of choice.
Live with it.

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What does President Trump have to do with this? When you can't figure out or don't like something , you, and others say something political and stupid!

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pilotjag 5
Another great article...
jasonforpres 5
wow, United really needs to work on their image.
canuck44 7
At this point they should be working to reverse their image.
James Simms 8
Hey, @ least United "may have" learned something & 1) didn't try to stuff the FA into an overhead bin, 2) rerouted them thousands of miles from their destination, & 3) didn't break them like they do guitars. 😜😁😎
Albert Patzke 4
You would think that in today’s environment that a company would know better. However, given United’s problems recently with its inability to keep track of checked animals I’m beginning to think maybe it’s idiocy from the top down.
AWAAlum 4
It's abundantly clear to most that United's action is crazy over-the-top. Not just the iPad issue, but c'mon, not wearing an apron five years ago? That being said, some are defending them because most jobs have down time and so what's the harm. I suppose under routine circumstances there is none. Although when I think back over my working years, I don't believe I've ever had an employer that would condone watching a video while on the clock. As much as I disliked having to "look busy" even when I wasn't, I have to admit to understanding the employer's viewpoint. Doesn't mean I like it.
paul trubits 1
Everyone is entitled to a break at work. This is not a new industry. Job responsibilities should be clearly defined and should be enforced by the employer with the union making sure that treatment is both fair and equitable.
AWAAlum 3
Valid point. However, I believe a FA is in a unique category. Whereas when others are on a break, they actually leave their work space for the duration of the break. Conversely, when / if a FA takes a break, they can't. And what happens if someone pushes a call button. They're never really on break, are they.

I believe the only appropriate action to these "infractions" would have simply been a reprimand on their record. Done and dusted. The airline and the union failed these employees.
If a passenger had rung the call button presumably they would have put the iPad down and gone to see what the passenger wanted.
Dan Grelinger 0
You presume that they would do the 'right' thing. I think is this issues is that they were already proving they weren't doing the right thing.
I don't see how your conclusion flows logically from your premise. Just because they may break some kind of rule that relates to viewing an iPad does not mean they will be unresponsive to passenger demands. Breaking one rule is of little predictive value in determining how someone will react to a totally different stimulus.
Dan Grelinger 1
Your conclusion is the one that is more unreasonable. My suggestion is that they MAY be consistent, that is if they break one rule, they may break others. Your suggestion is that they will be inconsistent, demonstrating that they are comfortable breaking rules, but for some unexplained reason, will decide randomly to reach a different decision on a different rule. Neither conclusion is definite, but my assumption of consistency is more reasonable than your conclusion of inconsistency.
Edward Bardes 1
But we won't know if they will break other rules beyond using an iPad on duty. Especially given that they've had the job for several years.
Dan Grelinger 1
You are correct. But that has nothing to do with what the other poster suggested.
Ken Lane 1
By your logic, my failure to load an approach under VFR against normal procedure means I'll land at the wrong airport.

While that has happened, it is improper to assume such will happen with every single pilot who does not load an approach under VFR.
Dan Grelinger 1
No, you do not understand logic. I did not presume anything. I rejected a presumption.
If they worked in United’s PR department instead they’d never need worry about job security.
glang3 6
United has not had the best of luck recently, huh?
Jason Chiu 22
Seems they make their own luck
My 26 plus years with the airline says there is more to this story than is being reported, but in the end decisions are made based on cost versus risk and let the jury decide. When the multi Billion company is rolling in the dough, they are willing to take more risk and seriously, a 1.5M award is peanuts to them.
Sue for retirement flight benefits as well, at first class rates :)
bob elmar 1
I think people are missing the point! Of course the firing is wrong on so many levels HOWEVER as a passenger I have to say that I dont appreciate flight attendants watching Ipads. United employees are already the biggest a""holes in the sky from my personal experience so this just adds to that perception. Also, name one other job where watching an Ipad is acceptable behavior!
royr2 5
...and that's why you don't get to see inside the cockpit.
royr2 7
All I'm really saying is it was stated earlier in another comment that airlines have widely gone to mobile devices for their employee data and information. Pilots have been using them for years already as well. That's only one of MANY industries that find 21st century devices totally acceptable in the workplace. They need it to do the job, or at least access resources. You can't just assume that because they're staring at a device that they're goofing off. This is a case of discrimination, it's pretty transparent.
WhiteKnight77 2
Exactly. The FAA has allowed and issues airport diagrams and route charts in PDF formats that can be used on tablets and have allowed such use in the cockpit and yes, it has spread to other industries as well. Fab shops are putting construction or build drawings on iPads instead of using paper drawing and inspectors use said drawings for information for inspections. Some companies even have it for contractors to write reports on. Besides, if I want to watch movies, I would rather do it on my laptop and not a tablet. ;)
rastapoodle 5
I'm 6 years into retirement from 30+ years in the airline industry.....started the job knowing I'd work nights, holidays, weekends. I wanted the job because travel is my greatest passion and I got to do that for many years when being on an airplane was sorta nice. And absolutely, you don't want to see what happens in the cockpit. I have flown jumpseat many times (last 20 years was at UPSCO). Long-haul and across water flights are where the crew gets to work on their financial portfolios.....
paul trubits 8
On many flights, the FA have downtime. I often see them reading books. As long as they get their work done, who cares? United is a mess.
In the cockpit all day long that's where, geez the Hawaii pilots count up to 300 passenger guesses- of the right halfway time. They love it they're BORED !!
Andre Amaral 1
For all this to iPad and apron thing to be known and end up the way it did, some other flight attendant must have ratted out their colleagues... that's just low and depressing! What kind of work environment is this?
Edward Bardes 1
Let's all laugh at an industry that never learns anything, tee hee hee.
Ken Lane -5
Wow, lots of pro-union thuggery on this site, I gather?
Ken Lane 1
Wow, lots of people hate my comment, too.

I guess all those negatives must come from some pro-union thugs.
David Seider -1
@Ken Lane:
Your perception is correct.
I just read it, shake my head, and bite my knuckle. Hard.


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