NLRA Protections to Consider
A related question arises in the context of unionized employees. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), workers are protected if they refuse to perform a duty that is unsafe. However, under the current state of air travel, the NLRA would not protect an employee who refuses to fly as part of his or her job because the United States Government has declared that air travel is safe.
Corporate Liability and Other Concerns
Although generally not required to accommodate employees who refuse to fly as part of their jobs, employers may be concerned about potential liability if they insist that an employee travel and the employee is subsequently injured or killed in an airplane disaster while traveling on business. An employer should not be liable under such circumstances, however, because workers' compensation typically provides the exclusive remedy for all injuries or death sustained by an employee while working.
Finally, many employers have employee assistance programs (EAP), which are typically capable of providing individual or group counseling and support. Employers should not forget to make available and encourage employees to take advantage of any EAP the employer provides. EAP counseling can provide a much-needed outlet for employees to express and address their fears and concerns, before such issues impact their ability to perform their jobs.
In sum, while employers may make the business decisions to accommodate employees' fears and concerns regarding air travel by providing alternatives such as telecommuting and teleconferencing, companies are generally not required to do so, unless an employee suffers from a disability that precludes air travel and such travel is not an essential function of the employee's job. With these principles in mind, employers can make decisions regarding how best to address employees' needs in these potentially frightening times, while simultaneously protecting their business interests.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
(c) Mondaq Ltd, 2006 - Tel. +44 (0)20 8544 8300 -