Filing Deadlines Ground Flight Attendant’s Shoe-Related Accommodation Claims

Frank Ferreri

New York, NY ( – A worker’s injuries on the job might have supported her need to wear shoes that weren’t approved in her employer’s uniform policy, but because she didn’t file her complaint in time, she couldn’t pursue ADA charges against the employer.

In Czaja v. Delta Airlines, No. 20-CV-1721-LJV (W.D.N.Y. 02/10/22), the court held that the 300-day deadline for filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission left a flight attendant unable to sue Delta for not letting her wear sneakers or flats instead of high heels after she experienced a turbulence-related injury.

Injury, Shoe Troubles

The flight attendant was injured when the aircraft on which she was working encountered turbulence and she lost her balance because of the high-heeled shoes Delta’s uniform policy required her to wear.

The flight attendant reported her injury to Delta’s claims manager. The next day, when she told her managers about the injury and asked to take a leave of absence for medical treatment, she was told that she could take a taxi to a nearby urgent care and pay for treatment herself. She was also warned that if she missed a flight, it would count as a “strike” on her personnel record.

The flight attendant continued working for several weeks, despite having difficulty walking and standing for long periods. Eventually, she took disability leave. After being off work for nearly three months, the flight attendant asked if she could return to her job with the accommodation of wearing black sneakers or black laced shoes rather than high heels. These requests were denied.

She then asked about switching jobs but was told that wasn’t an option. Eventually, she produced a doctor’s note indicating that she could work but could only do so with flat shoes. Delta responded that only loafers with a half-inch heal would suffice under the uniform policy.

The flight attendant again sought another position with Delta but was informed that she could only get an accommodation that was within the uniform guidelines. She filed a charge with the EEOC and then sued under the ADA, claiming that Delta failed to provide her with a reasonable accommodation.

Timeliness Requirements

Under the ADA, an employee can establish a failure to accommodate claim by showing that she had a disability, the employer had notice of the disability, a reasonable accommodation would have let her perform the essential functions of her job, and the employer refused to make such an accommodation.

Additionally, an employee seeking to assert an ADA claim must file an administrative charge with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged failure to accommodate.

In the flight attendant’s case, the 300-day rule sunk her claims with respect to Delta’s shoe policy.

Because she filed her EEOC claim on May 30, 2019, the flight attendant couldn’t sue for anything that occurred before Aug. 3, 2018, but her last request for an exception to the shoe policy came in April 2018.

As a result, her claims were time-barred and she could not pursue an ADA failure to accommodate claim based on the shoe policy.

The lesson? Timing matters when a failure to accommodate assertion is on the line.