A 48-year-old former United Airlines pilot is suing the company, alleging he was wrongfully fired in 2021 for not getting the coronavirus vaccination even though he presented evidence his doctor warned him that getting the shot while he recovered from the malady could impact his health.
Andrew Risk‘s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit allegations include wrongful termination, retaliation, discrimination, harassment, failure to accommodate and engage in the interactive process and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. A United Airlines representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the suit brought Monday, Nov. 28.
Risk was hired in September 2007. In August 2021, Risk contracted coronavirus and suffered from losses of taste and smell as well as difficulty in breathing, the suit states. His scheduled flights were canceled and a United Airlines nurse told him he could not resume his job until his sense of smell returned because such a loss is a safety concern when flying, the suit states. The next month, Risk was told by an aviation medical examiner that he still was not ready for medical clearance due to COVID-related breathing and lung issues, so Risk was placed on a leave of absence, the suit states. The doctor told him he could not obtain the coronavirus vaccination despite a company mandate because he was still experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, according to the suit.
Risk subsequently sent an email to the Los Angeles International Airport Base chief pilot explaining with documentation that he could not be vaccinated because his doctor told him it could affect his health, the suit states. Risk received a response the next day and was told to attend a meeting in October 2021 concerning his vaccination status, the suit states. The meeting was canceled, but United Airlines later sent emails to employees stating that all of them had to get the coronavirus shots by November 2021, the suit states. Risk applied for an exemption to the mandate, the suit states.
Risk’s exemption application was initially accepted, but later denied, according to the suit. When Risk asked the assistant chief pilot to resolve the issue, the latter said that United Airlines was “coming down on people that were not vaccinated,” the suit states. Subsequent meetings with members of the United Airlines corporate division failed to resolve the issues and Risk received a letter last Dec. 16 that he was being fired despite his having provided evidence that getting vaccinated could impact his health, the suit states.
The suit alleges United Airlines wrongfully fired Risk instead of allowing him to remain on leave while he recovered.