Refusal to travel by plane?

Hi all, can an employer fire and employee for refusing to travel by plane? What laws govern this?



  • 8 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Good question. Is flying or extensive travel a bona fide occupational requirement? There were a few cases I heard of after 9/11 where employees were very nervous about flying and the party line was to try to accommodate employees where it was feasible through alternatives such as teleconferencing, train, etc. Is the refusal to fly the only performance issue with this employee? Are there alternatives available?
  • We had an engineering director once who had a phobia against flying. He even brought in a doctor's note indicating he was under treatment for this problem. He drove to customers or sent a representative from his department.

    Never checked if this was covered by the ADA, we just made the accomodation. But, you might want to check if it is covered by the ADA.
  • Good point. However, I'd be very surprised if fear of flying is covered by ADA because it does not prevent the individual from participating in a major life function.
  • Is flying required in order for the employee to get their job done? Can the employee do their job by taking an alternative mode of transportation? I recall mfrom many years ago when one of my employees had a flying phobia and although ADA did not exist then, she made the company aware of her phobia and told us this should not prevent her from doing her job (she was the safety nurse). If she had to be at another facility out of state, she would just drive or take the bus or whatever.
  • E Wart
    I would really think about this before you start to fire someone.
    First, when the employee took their job, were they told that there would be traveling required or were they told they would have to fly to do their job? Or were they told anything?
    Some people have a very ligtimate reason for not flying. My sound silly but it is true. (My husband's parents were both killed in a plane crash when he was 15. He flys, but only when he has to and is a basket case. Back when I was able to do so, I literally had to walk him on the plane. His grandfather was the GM of a large national company and only traveled by train, but obviously got his job done.)
    I would have a discussion with the employee to see if he is refusing to travel or just travel by plane. I am sure there are other ways to get there or get the job done besides planes.

  • I would be leary of firing an employee for refusing to travel by plane. Like others have said, there are other modes of transportation available in most cases that would all the job to still be completed. We have had a few employees who do not like to fly and we agree to cover their travel expenses up to the amount that we would have spent if they would have flown. This way we're not out any extra money to accomodate their phobia and the work still gets done.
  • Following 9/11, I read an article that recommended flying be listed in the job description as a requirement for any position where it might become an issue. This wouldn't necessarily alleviate the problem with current employees, but would be a point for discussion with potential new hires. At least they'd know before they took the job that they'd have to fly. We do worldwide installations and would not be able to accommodate an employee in field service who refused to fly.
  • I would accomodate if possible, although I don't see how you could possibly do that if he has destinations over 1000 miles away. Even if his refusal was somehow covered under ADA you could terminate based on undue hardship to your company.
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