13 flight attendants file for wrongful termination against United Airlines

Thirteen former United Airlines flight attendants have filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Tuesday, January 6, accusing the airliner of wrongfully terminating them and violating their whistleblower rights.

Chicago Business Journal reports that on July 14, 2014, the flight attendants had all refused to work on United Flight 869, flying from San Francisco to Hong Kong, over what they perceived to be a security threat to the plane. Because of their refusal to work, particularly after being directly ordered by their supervisor to do so, all 13 were subsequently fired on October 9 and 10.

According to the news source, the flight attendants were concerned about the safety of the flight after finding the words "Bye Bye," alongside two graffiti images — purportedly one of a smiling face, the other of a "frowning or devilish" expression — written into the tail of the plane.

Although the flight attendants were ordered by their supervisor to board the plane, they refused to do so, forcing United to cancel the flight. The plaintiffs are now alleging that United violated their whistleblower rights, afforded them by the Federal Aviation Administration, by terminating their positions over what they saw as a security threat. United, however, dismisses the idea that there was any risk posed to the flight.

"Our flight operations, safety and maintenance teams appropriately investigated and determined there was no credible security threat," a United Airlines spokeswoman said in an official statement. "All of the Federal Aviation Administration's and United's own safety procedures were followed, including a comprehensive safety sweep prior to board, and the pilots, mechanics and safety leaders deemed the aircraft entirely safe to fly."

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