United Airlines flight attendant Jonathan Ray tested positive for Covid-19 in April 2020. He landed at Newark airport and checked into the Marriott Courtyard Wilmington Downtown to quarantine.
The property reported the twenty year airline veteran’s behavior while on property to United. He was suspended from his job and then terminated. And he’s suing – Marriott – for interfering with his employment relationship.
The lawsuit alleges that the hotel reported to United that the flight attendant and “the gentlemen who was staying with [him] to provide care for him” didn’t take responsible quarantine precautions. For instance the hotel apparently reported that they spent time maskless in the lobby among other actions.
United apparently terminated his employment. He blames Marriott, and says they made all of this up about him. Four things strike me about the suit.
- He’ll bear a high burden if he needs to show the statements aren’t just wrong about his behavior, but materially so. If this were to go to a jury trial, to prevail he’d probably need to be able to offer some reason why the hotel would be motivated to concoct this – without a motive it seems unlikely a jury will believe this.
- I’d have assumed the booking was made by United Airlines which is how United first becomes involved. However this was in Wilmington, not near the airport. While the flight attendant reports to be a lifetime Titanium member of the Marriott Bonvoy program, presumably his quarantine hotel which was needed on arrival after an international flight was provided by the carrier. Oddly the lawsuit claims they only knew he was a United employee because he told them.
- The flight attendant is suing Marriott because “Marriott owns and operates” the property, however in fact the Courtyard Wilmington Downtown is operated by CN Hotels.
Since Marriott neither owns nor operates the hotel I expect they’ll be able to get this suit dismissed and he’ll need to refile against that other plaintiff or further allege why the Marriott brand is responsible. Reading the complaint I sort of assumed the flight attendant was filing pro se but in fact appears to be represented by actual lawyers.
- If the allegations are false, and United terminated him on the basis of those false allegations, he’ll have a claim against the hotel operator (CN Hotels) I’d think. Most of the facts alleged in the complaint, such as what Marriott’s policies were for quarantining guests at the time, are extraneous to the issues in the case: did the hotel’s employees make false statements to United which led to the injury (termination)?
It’s not easy to get fired as a flight attendant at United Airlines. There are union contract procedures for this, negotiated by Sara Nelson’s AFA-CWA. He doesn’t appear to be suing United for wrongful termination, either. If he can’t provide a reason to believe that the hotel was making this up out of whole cloth, and that he was a model quarantine citizen, this lawsuit wouldn’t appear to be going anywhere.
(HT: One Mile at a Time)