An American Airlines mechanic has accused his employer of fraud, saying in a class action lawsuit the airline hired him and perhaps hundreds of other workers under the promise of working under a special program under which they would rocket to the top of the company’s wage scale within three years, only to quickly cancel the program soon after he took the job.

On Feb. 28, Thomas Ballard filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court, for himself and on behalf of all others hired by the airline since 2014 under the company’s so-called “two-year flex top-of-scale benefits” hiring incentive program.

Ballard is represented in the action by attorney Larry D. Drury, of Chicago.

 According to the lawsuit, Ballard was “a 24 year experienced Aviation Maintenance Technician” who was working at a job paying him $30 per hour, but left that job to take a position at American Airlines after learning the airline offered the flex pay program. Under the program, Ballard and others like him would begin work at American as if he already had three years of employment with the airline, allowing him to “achieve the five year top-of-scale hourly wage of $48 in two years.”

He took the position in March 2015.

The lawsuit asserts the program had been in place for a year at that point, and “there were hundreds of employees hired under the same two year flex incentive program.”

In August 2015, however, Ballard and others were informed by their union that American was shutting down the program and would “back out of, and not honor” the purported deal under which Ballard and others like him had accepted their employment.

The lawsuit alleged the union, identified as the TWU/IAM Mechanic Association, opted not to fight the program shutdown, “since it only affected 5 percent to 6 percent of the employees.”

Without the program in place, Ballard asserted it would take him and others like him eight years to attain the pay rate they believed American had promised would only take two years to attain. The complaint said “many American Airlines employees … left secure previous employment, some sold their homes and relocated their families, and some are living away from their families, in order to take advantage of the two year flex incentive program.”

The complaint alleges American “never had any intention of honoring its hiring agreement.”

The lawsuit alleged an American Airlines executive was “overheard by other employees” telling a union steward that “she had 10 applications for every one of the two year flex employees and anyone who didn’t like it could quit.”

The lawsuit alleges American’s shutdown of the program, and refusal to honor its terms, should be considered breach of contract, fraud and unjust enrichment, among other allegations.

The lawsuit asks the court to expand the action to include all other American Airlines workers impacted by the program shutdown, and to order the airline to honor the program’s terms for those it hired under the program.

The complaint asks the court to order American to pay unspecified actual, compensatory and punitive damages, plus attorney fees.  

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American Airlines Cook County Circuit Court Larry D. Drury Ltd.

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