Disabled Employee Wins Case Against Airline Employer

Jury award in disability case one of largest under ADA in Colorado, lawyers say

Editor’s Note: This is the first of three articles spotlighting CTLA Case of the Year Award nominees. Others will be included in upcoming issues of Law Week Colorado.

A disability discrimination case ended last fall with what the attorneys say they believe is one of the largest ADA awards ever in Colorado and is a caution to companies about the seriousness of discriminating under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. For their victory in the case, attorneys Paul Maxon, Sarah Parady and Amy Trenary are among the nominees for the Case of the Year Award from the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association.

In September 2017, a jury ruled against Utah-based SkyWest Airlines for discrimination, retaliation and failure to accommodate, as well as retaliation in violation of the FMLA. The jury awarded plaintiff John Hayes $2.45 million, including $450,000 in actual damages and $2 million in punitive damages.

Hayes, a former SkyWest Airlines employee, brought claims against the company after it did not reassign or reinstate him upon his return from FMLA leave for complications from kidney disease, nor did the airline accommodate doctor-ordered lifting restrictions whe he returned to work. Hayes also applied for several other positions within the company that did not carry the same lifting requirements as his previous ramp agent position.

SkyWest denied the discrimination allegations. The company claimed Hayes turned down a pilot recruiter position in Salt Lake City, which SkyWest pointed to as a reasonable accommodation.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the April 23, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.