Skywest Airlines forced to pay out over $2 million in discrimination suit

SkyWest jet

DENVER, Colo. — A federal jury has awarded a former Skywest Airlines employee $2.45 million, finding that the company had discriminated against him after suffering from kidney failure.

According to John Hayes’ attorney, the jury awarded Hayes $450,000 in damages and $2 million in punitive damages against the airline.

Hayes’ attorney, “The case centered around Skywest’s placing of Mr. Hayes on involuntary leave in August 2014, just after he suffered kidney failure and returned from medical leave. Prior to that time, Hayes had been one of the faces of the organization, placed by Skywest on the cover of its training materials and on the company’s promotional posters. However, on August 20, 2014, after just three days back on the job following the start of dialysis, Skywest dismissed Hayes from work and never allowed to him to return. Skywest argued that the dismissal was necessary because Hayes had suffered a medical incident—lightheadedness—while on the job. However, Dr. Bruce Fisch, Hayes’ nephrologist, testified that such incidents are common after the start of dialysis, and that Hayes was medically cleared to work.”

The jury sided with Hayes on all claims, saying that Skywest violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating, retaliating, and failing to accommodate him, and violated the Family and Medical Leave Act by retaliating against him for taking medical leave.

Ultimately, the jury found in favor of Hayes on all his claims, deciding that Skywest had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating, retaliating, and failing to accommodate him, and violated the Family and Medical Leave Act by retaliating against him for taking medical leave.

In a statement Hayes’ attorney Paul Maxon said, “We are tremendously satisfied to see justice done in this case. Skywest’s treatment of Mr. Hayes was deplorable. We hope and expect that this verdict will send a strong message to employers that discrimination and retaliation in the workplace will not be tolerated, but will be severely punished.”

A statement from SkyWest expressed the airline’s opposition to the verdict, saying, “SkyWest is a committed equal opportunity employer and is dedicated to diversity and fairness in our workforce. We remain committed to providing a just and productive work environment for each of our more than 12,000 employees. SkyWest respectfully disagrees with the verdict and will appeal.”