Richard Branton, Walbur Leonel and Vincent Fusco wanted nothing more than to work for the nation's No. 2 airline. After the three San Francisco men applied for positions as flight attendants at American Airlines in 1999 and completed the weekend-long interview process at its Dallas headquarters, the company issued them conditional offers of employment. Then it rescinded those offers. But it wasn't because of their inability to do the job. Company officials were unhappy with the results of their medical exams, which revealed Branton, Leonel and Fusco are HIV positive.
Because American claims the men lied on a medical history questionnaire about their HIV status, the company believes it was within its rights not to hire them. Branton, Leonel and Fusco, however, thought the question wasn't only
But American believes, for efficiency purposes, it should be able to bend this rule.
The company argues it must complete applicants' entire interview processes while they are in Dallas, and therefore it begins several parts of the medical exam, such as having applicants fill out the medical history form, before completing the background checks.
Whether or not American actually did anything wrong is for the California district court to decide. American's lawyers, however, don't seem too concerned.
"We think our process at American Airlines is the poster child for doing medical exams because, ultimately, it is the last thing that is completed," Mathiason says. "And we're confident we'll prove that and prevail at trial."