Flight attendants are known for working in an exceptionally dangerous field. This job is one of the most unhealthy in the United States, since flight attendants spend so much time in close quarters with passengers, have abnormal sleep patterns, and often work in unclean work environments. When Delta Airlines introduced new uniforms that attendants were mandated to wear, some flight attendants reported even more health problems.
New Uniforms from Lands’ End
Clothing is often treated to minimize wrinkling and staining, and the chemicals used in these treatments often cause issues among consumers. The “Passport Plum” uniforms were commissioned by Delta Airlines and produced by Lands’ End. Despite the extensive testing performed on the costumes, employees began reporting issues.
Skin Issues Reported
Employees named in the pending case against Delta Airlines report a wide range of health issues, including skin rashes that mimic the appearance and feeling of burns, fatigue, chronic headaches, and skin irritation. One flight attendant even claims that she experienced a low white blood cell count after wearing the uniform on a daily basis.
Workers’ Compensation Cases
Overall, under 1% of Delta Airlines flight attendants have reported health issues that may be tied to the new uniforms. However, in a company the size of Delta Airlines, that still amounts to a substantial amount of affected employees. Furthermore, there may be additional employees that have experienced issues but are afraid to report them. Their at-will, non-unionized status means that many employees fear termination or retaliation if they complain about conditions. The first employee to report issues filed a workers’ compensation claim and was subsequently permitted to wear a standard pantsuit and blouse to work. Her symptoms have ceased. The dermatologist responsible for her care claims that the damage occurred due to allergies to the formaldehyde and dyes in the uniform.
Other employees have also filed workers’ compensation claims against Delta Airlines, but report resistance from the company. The company has told employees that untreated uniforms are limited in supply. Additionally, they have required affected employees to go through extensive allergy testing and alternative clothing options.
Class Action Lawsuit
Now, the issue has moved from a standard workers’ compensation issue to a class action lawsuit that could cost Delta Airlines a significant amount of money. Flight attendants have come together to file a suit that makes a number of damning claims against Delta and Lands’ End, including:
- Manufacturing defects
- Design defects
- Failure to warn
In the suit, employees are asking for damages, attorneys’ fees, and an injunction. The suit has had several other effects on Delta Airlines employees. Delta flight attendants have long been non-union, at-will employees, but that could change soon. Employees may soon be represented by a union, which could protect workers from issues like this in the future.
What Does This Mean for Delta Airlines?
Class action lawsuits can take years to resolve. Before they case itself can move forward, the class must be certified. The court must find that the proposed case accurately represents the class of people being represented and that they have all been damaged in similar ways. This does not look at the merits of the actual case. If the class is certified, then the case can move forward.
If the class is successful in proving their case, Delta Airlines could face substantial financial damages. In total, the suit asks for more than $5 million in damages. Furthermore, the company could be forced to stop requiring the use of the Passport Plum uniforms, which were developed over a period of three years and undoubtedly cost a substantial amount of money in research and development.
This case has caught the nation’s attention. Whichever way it goes, it is relevant to business owners and employees alike.
In general, instances such as this highlight the importance of knowing your employer’s obligations to your well-being. If there’s ever any doubt about your safety as an employee, it could be beneficial to talk to an employment law firm that can clarify your rights and provide insight into any options you may have.