Cook County Record

Monday, December 9, 2019

Judge clears diabetic ex-United flight attendant for new try at disability class action

By Elizabeth Alt | Jul 3, 2017


CHICAGO — A former United Airlines flight attendant will get another chance to press her class action lawsuit against her former employer, alleging the airline terminated her and other employees for missing work due to diabetes, claiming the condition is a disability and not merely a common illness.

Tonia Tate was employed as a flight attendant with United Airlines from 1998 until Nov. 12, 2012. She alleges her Type I diabetes substantially limits her major life activities. Tate alleges that her physical impairment was amplified by standing for long periods of time while working as a flight attendant.

Tate alleged she was subjected to a hostile work environment and then fired from her position because her disability caused her to miss work.

Tate claims United treated her condition as a common illness, would not accommodate medical restrictions and has a history of terminating employees for missing work when absent from work due to similar disabilities. She is now pursuing a class action on behalf of herself and all persons with similar disabilities who were employed by United Airlines and discharged under United’s attendance policy.

United Airlines sought to strike Tate’s motion for a class-action suit, claiming this type of complaint based on the Americans with Disabilities Act is not conducive to class actions.

Judge William T. Hart wrote in the decision: “An order denying amendment to allege class action allegations or to strike class action allegations is functionally equivalent to an order denying class certifications.” Hart dismissed United’s attempt and referenced a previous case in which United complied with a ruling requiring it to provide reasonable accommodation to disabled employees and was required to modify its assessment, training and notice practices.

Hart granted Tate’s motion to file an amended complaint and ruled that time will be allowed for class-action discovery and the filing of a motion to certify a class. The hearing is set for Oct. 5.

Tate is represented in the action by the Austin Law Group LLC, of Hinsdale.

United is defended by the firm of Littler Mendelson P.C., of Chicago. 

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Organizations in this Story

Littler Mendelson P.CEastern Division of the Northern District of IllinoisUnited Airlines