In This Edition
- How the First Amendment Applies in the Workplace
- Benefits Enrollment Upon Returning from a Leave of Absence (including EVF or ELOA)
- What’s the Difference Between a Fear and a Phobia?
- REMINDER: Scholarship Opportunities
How the First Amendment Applies in the Workplace
The Grievance Committee is hearing a lot of chatter from Flight Attendants believing they are exempt from discipline from harassment or discrimination due to their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We’d like to give a brief overview of how the Amendment actually affects one who works for a private employer such as Alaska Airlines.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution prevents the government from making laws which regulate an establishment of religion, or that would prohibit the free exercise of religion, or abridge the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, or the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.
The key word in the Amendment is government. Alaska Airlines is a private rather than governmental employer. It can legally establish system regulations or people policies enforcing its behavioral and disciplinary standards providing these policies do not violate state and/or federal law.
Present federal law protections from discrimination regarding employment decisions are based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender (including pregnancy), disability, age (if the employee is at least 40 years old), and citizenship status. The Equality Act is also adding protections based on one’s sexual orientation and gender identity. These protections safeguard people who fit those categories from being discriminated against regarding employment decisions based on that status. For example, Alaska Airlines couldn’t refuse to hire an otherwise qualified candidate only because s/he is 41 years of age.
What the law doesn’t allow for is using your protected status as a defense to harass or discriminate against others. For example, someone over 40 years of age may not harass another person based on their race because they believe themselves to be an “old school thinker” and are basing their actions on beliefs/feelings from when they were younger or when things “were different.” This becomes an issue of harassment and/or discrimination and the harasser is not protected from discipline because they fall into the protected class of age. This applies to all protected classes.
The Alaska Airlines People Policy clarifies what constitutes harassment and discrimination, and the Grievance Committee has seen the Company discipline based upon those policies and the law. While one may not intend to harass or discriminate, Alaska Airlines typically looks at the impact on the person being harassed and not the intent of the harasser. So, while everyone is entitled to their private opinion or to share their opinion with their government, one can be disciplined for sharing an opinion deemed harassing, discriminatory or intolerant in the workplace or via social media if such nexus can be made to your private employer. We share this information in the attempt to educate our fellow members and prevent any further discipline or terminations.
Please contact your Local Grievance Committee if you have any questions.
Benefits Enrollment Upon Returning from a Leave of Absence (including EVF or ELOA)
As a reminder, Flight Attendants returning from a leave of absence, including EVF or ELOA, must complete the enrollment process again in order to maintain or reinstate company health benefits. Optional coverages which were not in place during the leave such as FSA contributions or Supplemental Short-Term Disability must be re-added to your coverage. Previously elected benefits do not resume automatically. It is essential to contact Alaska Airlines Benefits at (844) 231-3476 or visit www.myalaskabenefits.com within 31 days from the date of returning to work to verify, enroll or make changes to benefits. If enrollment is not completed during this window, no changes are able to be made until the next open enrollment period and your current health benefits may terminate, even if you maintained coverage during your EVF or other leave.
If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact your Local Benefits Committee.
What’s the Difference Between a Fear and a Phobia?
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)/Professional Standards Committee
Phobias come in many different forms. Acrophobia is the fear of heights. Trypanophobia is the fear of needles. Hodophobia is the fear of traveling. Phobias are one of the most common mental health disorders with 11% of people experiencing at least one phobia over her/his lifespan. So, what is the difference between a fear and a phobia?
Fears have a protective purpose. They make us alert to danger and prepare us to deal with it. Phobias involve the experience of persistent fear that is excessive and unreasonable. A fear of being hit by lightning during a thunderstorm will result in most of us leaving the beach when a thunderstorm pops up. Most would call this a reasonable, if not healthy fear. Once the thunderstorm clears, we go back onto the beach. Those with a phobia about being struck by lightning, which is called astraphobia, may find it difficult to even venture outside with a concern that a thunderstorm could pop up anytime. The key to distinguishing a fear from a phobia is whether the person is physically and/or psychologically impaired by her/his worry. In short, a phobia is a fear of being afraid. It results in a person limiting or eliminating normal life activities just to avoid the triggering objector event.
Most people generally don’t seek treatment for phobias. Only 6% of people with a phobia ever go in for treatment. This low treatment rate is due in part because those with a phobia are not totally disabled by it. Many are able to successfully create routines to avoid their trigger(s). Not before a person’s phobia is extremely severe or life limiting does one typically seek help.
Even though phobias can be very disabling and downright exhausting, the great news is that phobias in children, adolescents and adults are also very treatable. If you’d like confidential assistance with a phobia or other anxiety disorders, call one of your Local EAP Committee Members. You can find contact information on the EAP Committee page of afaalaska.org.
REMINDER: Scholarship Opportunities
In a previous AFA Update sent out on January 22, information was shared about scholarship opportunities available to AFA and CWA Members as well as certain eligible dependents. Details about both scholarships, as well as information on how to apply, can be found by following the links below.
AFA Scholarship Fund
The Association of Flight Attendants Scholarship Fund is intended to provide financial assistance to dependents of our active members who will be attending a college or university. The deadline for applications is April 10. Details are available on the AFA International website at http://www.afacwa.org/scholarships.
CWA Joe Beirne Scholarship
The Joe Beirne Scholarship is offered by CWA. The deadline for applications is April 30. Details on this scholarship are on the CWA website at http://www.cwa-union.org/pages/beirne.