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Refusing to fly for work - maybe getting fired for this


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Hi ENA,

 

I have been with my company for 13 years. 6 years ago they decided to oursource many of the functions to a 3rd party located in the Phillipinnes. The corporate office is in the US. So my entire department was let go and they kept only me, the manager to oversee the processes being done by this 3rd party. In the 6 years I have been doing this, the department has been moving under different bosses. The 3rd party is not doing a good job at all. The past few years have been really rough. My management is getting heat from upper management to make this arrangement work. So one thing that they have decided is that I need to go to the Phillipines to retrain the staff. I will not fly, the last time I flew was over 20 years ago and I freaked out on the plane. I was begging the staff to punch me to knock me out to put me out of my misery. I was having anxiety attacks that resulted in unbearable physical pain. I was coming back from Mexico and I was supposed to get a connecting flight, I wouldn't get on the flight and I hitchhiked to a train and took the train the rest of the way home.

 

My boss told me today that is part of my job to travel (never was mentioned when I was hired) and that if I can't fly I will be out of job. He then told me to get out of the meeting that we were in when we were discussing this. He was yelling very loudly. I went and packed up all my stuff and left crying my eyes out.

 

I have had this job for 13 years. I make quite a bit of money - I have been looking elsewhere and there are no jobs available that make even close to what I make. I am a single mom with debts to match my income. If I lose this job I have no one to help me.

 

I am wondering do I have a case to sue him? Can he require that I fly half way around the world as a condition of my employment? This was not stated at the time I took the job or I would not have taken it in the first place.

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I am wondering do I have a case to sue him? Can he require that I fly half way around the world as a condition of my employment? This was not stated at the time I took the job or I would not have taken it in the first place.

 

I would call your local department of labor to see what the laws are. If you are in NJ start here link removed

 

There are 2 issues I see. #1 requiring flying from someone with a phobia of it (anxieties and phobia are mental health disabilities and there are laws surrounding that)

 

#2 requiring travel of a single mother when it was not originally part of the job. If they use that as a grounds to fire you there could be other legal ramifications there.

 

What you might want to do is cover your bases and talk to a professional about the anxiety and flying phobia to have formal medical documentation of it, in case you need to take legal action.

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Check your employment contract - HR is required to have a copy on file.

 

If there's nothing about travel - consult either an employment lawyer, or employee rights group to point you at legal counsel.

 

And get a psych note stating that you have a disorder that doesn't permit you to fly safely.

EDIT: also being a single mom, yes, they would be putting additional strain, possibly an impossible one, on you.

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Not likely. At the time you took your job, it was 13 years ago. They could hardly have seen outsourcing back then.

 

I hate to be harsh, but it's not the company's fault that you have travel anxiety. They need someone in the job who can...do the job.

 

Can you add an extra day for travel and visit your doctor for appropriate medicine to enable you to fly there and back?

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It depends if you live in an "At-Will" state meaning if you live in an "At-Will" state they can fire you for no cause UNLESS they fired you due to some type of discrimination or some illegal activity that you refused to participant in. All of which you would have to prove of course.

 

My mother is currently dealing with this and it is a long process once the paperwork is sent in and if the company contests the accusations. It's already been a year for my mom and it's still ongoing.

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This is tough.

 

Do you think you can talk to a doctor about these conditions? It might be tougher for you to be out of a job and have to sue or anything like that. Job market is very tough on everyone, especially lately. You might want to consult with a labor lawyer too or something like that. But of course, if you want to build a stronger case, you should see your doctor first anyhow. Or maybe your lawyer first. To be honest, I don't really see a case developing for you.

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So one thing that they have decided is that I need to go to the Phillipines to retrain the staff

 

Also I'm not sure about the nature of your work but is there any other way you could deliver the training without physically being there? Is it something technology could help with like online meetings, videos, skype? A lot of companies are doing that sort of thing now, just to save money on travel.

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Also I'm not sure about the nature of your work but is there any other way you could deliver the training without physically being there? Is it something technology could help with like online meetings, videos, skype? A lot of companies are doing that sort of thing now, just to save money on travel.

 

Yes, of course I could do the training other ways, as I have been for 6 years. its not working and I believe they want me to go there as a last ditch effort to prove these people are not capable of doing the job, the next step would be for them to cancel the contract or demand they all be fired.

 

I could go to a doctor but to be honest the only way I am getting on that plane is if I am drugged so deeply that I am almost dead. I am afraid I may overdoese and in that condition lord only knows what could happen to me. There is no direct flight there so I would have to get at connecting flight which would be hard if I am drugged that heavily. I don't think it is fair that they use me like this. We all know the training, in person or otherwise won't do any good. These people are not capable of doing the work. They never should have outsourced this type of work in the first place. But they are in a 10 year contract now and are looking to do anything they can to save face. I could live over there and it wouldn't make any difference whatsoever.

 

I am definitely going to the Drs tomorrow to get a dr note saying I have a phobia and can't fly. To be honest I don't want this job anymore, my boss is obviously disappointed or mad at me and I can't see how I can work for him now knowing that he wants me out. I am really hoping that he fires me so I can at least collect unemployment. I am willing to give up my career over this as I feel that strongly about flying. It makes me wonder though, if I am the only one qualified to make this trip and give the training what will he do if he fires me.

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Have you thought about taking something like dramamine to help you? Or even go see a doctor and find out what might calm you down for the flight. When my mother flys out here to visit she has to take pills to keep her anxiety down because she's just as afraid of flight as you are...

 

She's more or less comatose during the flight but she gets there

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Have you thought about taking something like dramamine to help you?

 

I have flown before, with dramamine - the last time i flew i was 20 years old, i am now 43, i was coming back from Mexico, the flight was turbulent, I was flipping out hysterical, screaming at the top of my lungs in physical pain, i was begging for the steward's to punch me as hard as she could to knock me out. I was throwing up and in the most servere pain I ever endured, even worse than labor pains. I was supposed to get a connecting flight to get home, i got my bags and hitchhiked in the middle of the night and got a limo driver to pick me up, he took me to a train station and I took a 5 hour train ride home. It was the worst day of my entire life. I would rather take my own life than get on a plane again. i have had nightmares from this trip for the last 20 years. Dramamine will not do a thing. I would have to be drugged to the point of unconsciousness And to get to the Philippinnes from here is a 14 hour flight, that does not include the layover and any other travel. I am told door to door it is about 24 hours. Not to mention I am a single mom, I would have to find someone to watch my son, get him to school, do his homework and also I would have to hire someone to take care of my pets.

 

I guess If I can't find another job I will have to do it. I pray that I don't die during the trip and that nothiing happens to me while I am drugged unconscious. All I ever want is for my son to have a better life than I have. This job means nothing to me I am in it for the money to give him a good life.

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Have you thought about taking something like dramamine to help you? Or even go see a doctor and find out what might calm you down for the flight. When my mother flys out here to visit she has to take pills to keep her anxiety down because she's just as afraid of flight as you are...

 

She's more or less comatose during the flight but she gets there

 

Thanks, that is sweet. Its a little more than just fear for me. I go pshcyo on the plane. I can't describe it, other than to say the pain is unbearable. Its like forcing a person with claustraphopia into a tiny closet for 14 hours. If I had a choice between that pain and death, I choose death.

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I'm not trying to be rude, really. But you're a single mother with HUGE monthly bills and a regular-paying job won't cover them. It's easy to say you just can't do it, but are you truly willing to lose your job, risk losing your home or whatever else may happen because you won't address this thing that happened 20 years ago?

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LD, so sorry to hear you are going through this. The flying disorder therapy sounds good. I was afraid of flying at one point and I took a pilots course. I didn't finish the whole course, but flying is actually very safe. Learning about turbulence can really help to reduce flight anxiety. And, flying is actually much safer than driving. A good tranquilizer like ativan (sub-lingual) can really work wonders.

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lol... this thread made me laugh. not because of what you are going through but because it reminded me of myself.

i have driven halfway accross the country just because i didnt want to get on a plane. I wouldnt say i go psycho on a plane, but do get some serious anxiety.

i had a job that stated occasional travel required...... about a year into it, i was asked to travel to our other location. While it was not accross continents, it was still accross countries and about 16 hours driving away (vs a 2 hour flight)

I too got into panic mode. My boss took a bit of heat for it, but let me drive instead of fly, no questions asked.

In another position, I was asked to travel to Europe but declined and asked they send the more junior staff member because I was too afraid. Years later I am kicking myself for that free trip, but I have no regrets, and if I had to do it over again I would still decline.

Some fears may seem silly to others, but to the person experiencing them, they are extremely debilitating

 

 

I agree with other posters, and would check your employment contract. If you have been there 13 years and have never had to travel, I would think you would definitely have some good legal arguments with regards to refusing. If you had only been there a year or two then maybe not.

Especially with todays technology. anything can be done without having to leave your office, especially if you can prove you have done training in the past via conference call.

I would try and have a serious discussion with your boss and state your case. If that fails try HR. And another thing, if you dont have or cant find adequate child care for this ttrip, then I am sure that would also help your case

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I would seriously consider therapy for this. I don't know if you can stop them from firing you or whatnot, but i think a lot of people would love to have a job where they are required to travel internationally! if you don't want that job, someone else will take it, for sure.

 

i have a flight phobia as well, but have been able to get over it mostly with the help of therapy, meditation/relaxation exercises and sleeping pills on the flight. actually, i like international flights better because they are larger and smoother. not like little flights that can be kind of bumpy. i take sleeping pills, a glass of red wine and relaxing music and am out pretty fast!

 

i also wanted to point out that driving is far far far more dangerous than flying. there are very few plane accidents/problems - though every time it happens, it's in the news. unlike car accidents which happen every second, but no one reports on that on TV unless it's like a 19 car pileup.

 

what part of flying do you not like?

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It is not that I am afraid of flying. When on a plane I get painful feelings in my stomach. Almost like if someone was tickleing you to the point where you can't breathe. I know planes are safer than driving, its not my mind that has a problem its the physical symptoms that I get - they are unbearable for me. What if I take xanax and get on the plane and the xanax doesn't work? what then? I will end up taking the entire bottle and dying from an OD.

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It is not that I am afraid of flying. When on a plane I get painful feelings in my stomach. Almost like if someone was tickleing you to the point where you can't breathe. I know planes are safer than driving, its not my mind that has a problem its the physical symptoms that I get - they are unbearable for me. What if I take xanax and get on the plane and the xanax doesn't work? what then? I will end up taking the entire bottle and dying from an OD.
This was 20 years ago, and the pain was just a part of the symptoms. And there are doctors and therapies for this. You're being illogical, considering you're about to be fired. You want someone to hold your hand so you can keep your job? The real world doesn't work that way. Buck up and do what it takes to get past your fear. For your kid's sake, if nothing else.
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Thanks, that is sweet. Its a little more than just fear for me. I go pshcyo on the plane. I can't describe it, other than to say the pain is unbearable. Its like forcing a person with claustraphopia into a tiny closet for 14 hours. If I had a choice between that pain and death, I choose death.[/quote

 

If someone told me I had to go on a rollercoaster to keep my job I really might consider quitting because I'm so afraid of getting sick. I once declined to go out on a sailboat in rough waters because I was afraid -it was a company event and yes some people made comments but I didn't care. If it had been posed as a job condition maybe I would have taken dramamine. Can't you get someone to prescribe some valium or similar for you and do some counseling sessions to help?

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This was 20 years ago, and the pain was just a part of the symptoms. And there are doctors and therapies for this. You're being illogical, considering you're about to be fired. You want someone to hold your hand so you can keep your job? The real world doesn't work that way. Buck up and do what it takes to get past your fear. For your kid's sake, if nothing else.

 

I would really like to get over this. If not for work so that I can start traveling for vacations. I know it is holding me back. I am also supposed to being going to Argentina for work in January. I was willing to do that because it was not nearly as far. My biggest fear is that I go to the philippinnes and the flight there is just horrendous and painful and then I can't get back home. Its not like he is asking me to fly to another state. It is halfway around the globe. I am not willing to lose my job over this, so I am actively looking for another. I have been sending my resume out anywhere and everywhere. If I don't find another job before they want me to go I guess I will go. I am going to make a Dr appointment this week. I will have to be heavily sedated. I'm not sure how I will manange to get on the second flight in that condition. It is impossible to get a straight flight there.

 

IMO my going there will not change a thing. The people there will still not be able to do the work. I am really upset with my boss that he can't see that. Does he think I am going to fly over there and perform some kind of magic and suddenly make these people good workers? No - he is sending me to prove that they stink so that he has justification in telling the 3rd party they have to fire them all. That is what is really upsetting. He is making me do something that I am terrified of doing, I will have to be away from my son for at least 2 weeks. My parents will have to take care of him and they are elderly. It will be really difficult for them. Not to mention my pets and all the other inconveniences. All so he can prove a point that these people are incompetent. In any case I am definitely not staying at this company any longer. I'm actively looking and I know I will find something eventually, I just hope it is sooner rather than later.

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