In many cases, we don’t often believe a person who has called in sick will lose their employment at a company soon after. However, when it comes to pilot termination as a result of calling in sick, you know how real this outcome actually is.
What are your potential legal options after pilot termination?
The relevant Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) here is part 61.53(a)(1), which states in part, “no person who holds a medical certificate…may act as pilot in command, or in any other capacity as a required pilot flight crewmember, while that person: knows or has reason to know of any medical condition that would make the person unable to meet the requirements for the medical certificate necessary for the pilot operation.”
FAR 61.53(a)(1) essentially states that a pilot may hold a valid medical certificate but still have a medical condition that makes the pilot ineligible to fly, even if the condition is temporary. For example, a cold, flu, or even bad allergies could make a pilot ineligible to fly.
A pilot who is rendered ineligible to fly under FAR 61.53(a)(1) from a temporary illness could be in violation of FAR 61.53(a)(1) if they fly their trip assignment. One option for the pilot is to call in sick. However, pilots should be aware that an employer may still pressure the pilot to fly or even retaliate against the pilot for calling in sick. Nevertheless, this does not make the employer’s conduct legal. In fact, a pilot may have a possible lawsuit against their employer for such conduct.
The second relevant FAR here is part 61.53(a)(2), which states in part, no person who holds a medical certificate…may act as pilot in command, or in any other capacity as a required pilot flight crewmember, while that person: is taking medication or receiving other treatment for a medical condition that results in the person being unable to meet the requirements for the medical certificate necessary for the pilot operation.”
FAR 61.53(a)(2) essentially states that a pilot may hold a valid medical certificate but still receive treatment or take medication, making the pilot ineligible to fly.
Section 8-1-1(b) of the FAA’s Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) provides helpful context to both FAR 61.53(a)(1) and FAR 61.53(a)(2). FAA AIM 8-1-1(b)states in reference to illness:
Even a minor illness suffered in day‐to‐day living can seriously degrade performance of many piloting tasks vital to safe flight. Illness can produce fever and distracting symptoms that can impair judgment, memory, alertness, and the ability to make calculations. Although symptoms from an illness may be under adequate control with a medication, the medication itself may decrease pilot performance.”
This section of the AIM states that the safest rule is not to fly while suffering from any illness.
Pilot Termination After Notifying An Employer
I was fired after notifying the airline that I was not fit to fly due to feeling less alert than I normally am.”
A recently terminated pilot may feel a range of adverse side effects from any number of issues. Here, we can refer to this same piece of documentation from AIM for reference.
For example, when notifying the airline of your inability to fly prior to pilot termination, did you:
- Cite events that would negatively impact your performance?
These events would potentially impair a pilot’s performance in critical situations calling for keen judgment, accurate memory, a high state of alertness, full coordination, clear vision and an ability to make calculations quickly.
- Cite reasons for a lack of physical and mental awareness?
The pilot should be forthcoming on reasons they suspect have impaired their mental acuity and response time and an ability to control issues related to diarrhea and motion sickness.
- Cite feelings of depression, anxiety and general lack of control for making sound decisions?
These feelings can point to the pilot having a physical or mental reaction to something having entered their body, in turn depressing the nervous system and making the pilot more susceptible to hypoxia (a state of oxygen deficiency from exposure to altitude that can contribute to impaired brain function).
If you believe you have faced disciplinary action after notifying your employer of an illness, it’s time to Bring Aboard Barnett. Once you reach out to Barnett Law Offices to schedule a consultation with one of our aviation attorneys, we can help clarify the options before you, including whether legal action against your employer for wrongful pilot termination is feasible. Call us for your consultation today at 1-800-578-5512.