The crew of a  United Airlines Flight arrived at their plane one day and found the words “BYE BYE” scrawled on the tail section. It was July, 2014, just a few months after the Malaysia airline plane disappeared over the Indian ocean. The crew was shaken. They asked for a security sweep. United, however, simply examined the auxiliary power unit or APU and found nothing wrong. They said the graffiti was a joke. The crew asked the flight to be cancelled. The airline refused. The entire crew of thirteen refused to board the plane. The flight was canceled. The crew was fired a few months later for insubordination. Now, the crew has sued the airline seeking back pay and compensatory damages. See CBS news report. They also ask to be reinstated to their old jobs.

The attorney for the flight attendants says it was a “moral mandate” to not board that plane.

Maybe. But, in at-will state, as most states are, the employer can terminate a worker for refusing to perform his/her duties. The employer has the privilege of deciding what constitutes appropriate risk or not. Oil field workers encounter physical risk all the time. Their pay may be higher than most flight attendants, but the decisions are the same. Should the worker accept the risk or not? If the worker will not accept the risk, then s/he can quit.

Unless the employee has a union. If the employees form a union, then they can negotiate for some input into what constitutes risk. Otherwise, at least here in Texas, the employer gets to decide what is risky or not so risky.