This is a story about unhappy American Airlines employees. And, it's also about what you can learn in our country's courthouses.

It's amazing what you find when you check out companies and the lawsuits they're involved in.

Sometimes it's frivolous stuff, like the people suing McDonald's for charging for cheese in their Quarter Pounders. Sometimes, it's intriguing, like the passenger who sued Southwest Airlines for exactly "$74,999.99 and nothing more."

And sometimes, it's things like newly filed amended complaint (.pdf) in a lawsuit that a group of American Airlines employees filed against their own airline (among other defendants), in which they accuse American's management of creating "a public health crisis," and of flat-out fraud.

The case is about the uniforms that American Airlines rolled out in 2016. According to the lawsuit, they're toxic and unsafe, and have resulted in literally "thousands" of health complaints by American Airlines employees.

Last year, a judge let the lawsuit go forth against the uniform manufacturer, but said it would need to revised to keep American Airlines in the suit as well. And the amended complaint, filed earlier this month, delivers--with extremely blunt and accusatory language.

It claims there's been "a concerted effort--at the highest levels of American's corporate organization--to fraudulently cover up the dangers posed by these uniforms ... [f]rom the first wear test in 2015 to this day."

And, the plaintiffs say that "American's upper level management ... continues to pretend the uniforms are safe, and and to portray anyone who dared to complain as an isolated incident, overly sensitive, or a malingerer."

Unfortunately, there's nothing unusual about unhappy American Airlines employees. Think of the American Airlines flight attendants who picketed their own airline's headquarters in August, calling their new scheduling policy "cruel" and "disastrous."

Or the American Airlines employees who told me after I wrote about that policy, that their airline was: "unacceptable," "ridiculous," "inhumane," "horrible," and "suitable for robots."

Heck, go back more than a decade, to the infamous "Man, I Hate American Airlines" email that the CEO of The Ladders, Marc Cenedella, sent to 4 million subscribers. 

It basically describes his experience watching an especially sour American Airlines flight attendant going about her job while wearing a button that read, "I Have No Idea Why I Work Here."

More than 10 years later, it seems like a lot of American Airlines employees still feel the same way. And it brings me no joy to write about this kind of thing. In fact, it's perhaps the saddest thing about this whole story.

American Airlines is one of the big four, and by some measures the largest airline in the world. It would be better for everyone if it were run in a way that inspired widespread pride among its employees, instead of these kinds of issues.

Hey, at least they're getting new uniforms to replace the ones they say made them sick. Maybe that's a start.

I asked American Airlines for comment on the amended complaint. Here's their response:

"We are reviewing the filing and while we cannot comment on ongoing litigation, we remain committed to delivering uniforms from a new supplier despite the fact that all tests have found the uniforms meet or exceed industry safety standards. In the meantime, we have provided several alternatives so that everyone can be in a uniform they feel comfortable wearing."

Published on: Oct 14, 2018
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