Southwest Airlines Cleared of Discrimination Allegations

June 14, 2007 ( - A federal judge in Texas has thrown out a lawsuit by a former Southwest Airlines employee who claimed the air carrier violated federal labor law by firing him for, among other things, falling asleep when training pilots on a flight simulator.

Chief U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas cleared Southwest of allegations by plaintiff Herbert Grubb that the airline violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when it terminated Grubb in June 2004. Grubb was a flight instructor who trained pilots in simulators and in classroom settings.

Grubb’s lawsuit did not show the required discriminatory intent in Southwest’s decision to discharge Grubb, Fish ruled.

According to the decision, Grubb’s supervisors had repeated problems with him dozing off at work including in the midst of a training exercise with a student as well as during meetings with Southwest officials. In August 2003, according to Fish, pilots in a simulator training exercise involving landing tried unsuccessfully to shake the machinery to make enough noise to awaken Grubb.

Fish said in the ruling that Southwest encouraged Grubb to seek medical treatment and gave him time off to do so, but that he did not.

Shortly before his employment was terminated, Grubb submitted an application for benefits under FMLA. However, Grubb’s application was denied because he did not provide any medical records certifying his sleep disorder.

Grubb’s September 2005 suit charged that Southwest had deprived him of benefits to which he was entitled under ERISA and the FMLA and that Southwest had illegally fired him because of his disability in violation of the ADA.Southwest maintains that it discharged Grubb because of his poor productivity and his violation of various workplace conduct rules.

The case is Grubb v. Southwest Airlines,N.D. Tex., No. 3:05-CV-1934-G, 6/11/07).