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JetBlue boots autistic girl from flight: what we can learn

JetBlue makes a tough call when an autistic child becomes upset, highlighting how little most people know about autism, leaving much room for companies to learn about it to better accommodate autistic employees or customers.

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When JetBlue and an upset autistic child collide

When Emily Galindo and her husband asked if they could be seated together with their thirteen year old autistic daughter as they boarded a JetBlue flight, the crew tried to accommodate them. They, however, were only able to seat mother and daughter, Mia, together. Mia’s father was about ten rows ahead of this wife and child, and therefore not within his daughter’s sight.

Mia is autistic. Being rational and reasonable are skills that have to be taught, and even if an autistic child has memorized certain situations for the purpose of social rules, some situations, like this one are brought on too suddenly for an autistic child or individual to utilize his/her memorized skills. To Mia, her dad was gone. In the stress of the situation, she could only accept that if she couldn’t see him, he wasn’t there.

Stress, worry, and the unexpected caused Mia to have an outburst. She used only sign language and an I-pad for communication. To get the message across that she was angry, she refused to put on her seatbelt to prepare for taxiing. She actually had a good rationale. She wanted her dad on the plane; the plane won’t leave the terminal without all seatbelts buckled; she didn’t buckle her seatbelt. She wasn’t rebelling. She was communicating the best way she knew how.

Accommodating autism is tricky

Ultimately, the family was asked to leave the plane citing the enraged child was a possible danger to other passengers, and in the aftermath the family, the crew, and the passengers were left wondering how the situation could have been handled more successfully.

In the defense of JetBlue, they did initially try to accommodate the family, but autism is tricky to accommodate. They can’t just serve a special meal or call a skycap upon arrival. As the well known saying goes, “If you’ve seen one autistic child, you’ve seen one autistic child.” Autism isn’t a visible disability, especially on the higher functioning end of the spectrum. It is silent until it isn’t. It looks normal until it doesn’t.

To the blind eye, it looks like bad parenting, although for Emily to have gotten Mia through a family vacation and onto a plane took days, weeks, even months of the most patient, loving, and skilled kind of parenting there is. Emily, in retrospect, may have some different decisions, but she was tired. Tired like no parent of neurologically typical children can fathom.

It was a difficult call for the airline to escort the family off the flight. Mia did need to get off the plane in order to calm down and refocus. Just like a person having a panic attack or a PTSD sufferer would need a change of scenery to find calm.

Companies should gain a better understanding of autism

We understand panic and PTSD better now, but there was a time when we didn’t—a time when PTSD war veterans were excommunicated for their efforts, ignored, and labeled alcoholics or just plain messed up. Now any one of the general population would be appalled at the unfair treatment of a PTSD sufferer. That time hasn’t come yet for autism.

Until then, companies, brands, businesses, and schools need continuous education. We all have professional education, in-services, and lectures on equal rights. How many of us, depending on our industry, are still being made to check a yearly box that says we have been trained in bloodborne pathogens, STDS, affirmative action, and practice drills? Hearing these things repeatedly seems asinine. And, here’s hoping that in the coming years, we are all so well learned on the fair treatment of those with silent disabilities that we roll our eyes at the mention of the annual training.

Because we are all uneducated until we aren’t.

Kristyl Barron holds a BA in English Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and an MHR in Counseling/Organizational Management from the University of Oklahoma. Barron has been writing professionally since 2008, and projects include a memoir entitled Give Your Brother Back His Barbie and an in progress motivational book called Aspies Among Us.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. BawldGuy

    July 14, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    The airline tried to accommodate them? Really? How hard would it have been to seat Mom, Dad, and the daughter in one row? This is beyond stoopid.

  2. Emmanuel Fonte

    July 15, 2013 at 11:10 am

    no one is “autistic”! It’s the equivalent of saying you are cancerous. You have cancer, you have autism.

  3. Pondering_It_All

    July 20, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Really? Jet Blue “tried” to accomodate them, but couldn’t? They solved the problem by kicking them off the flight completely, but they couldn’t just order three other individual passengers to change seats with them. That is beyond ridiculous, and makes those Jet Blue employees look like idiots and liars.
    Its not like they would have even had to split up a group of three, since I am sure there were many rows containing three people traveling alone or just two of the three people together.

  4. Lisa Pulitzer

    August 21, 2013 at 1:26 am

    I find this story sickening. I have recently traveled aboard Jet Blue with my two children, and we have been separated on most of our flights. My daughter has an airborne peanut allergy and is already terrified at the prospect of being on a flight where someone might open a bag of nuts or a candy bar, and even then, the flight attendants cannot accommodate a seat change so that she can sit with a parent. Additionally, passengers on this airline are equally horrible, refusing to change their pre-selected seat to accommodate a scared young traveler. Shame on the lot of you.

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Business News

Corporate-franchise relationships: How has COVID affected them?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Being a part of a franchise has made sense for a long time for both the corporation and the franchisee, but the long stretch of COVID is adding complications.

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A franchise cup on a wooden table.

Americans love a franchise. We love knowing that every Dunkin Donuts iced coffee will taste the same as it did 3 states away – and every McDonald’s snack wrap will meet our expectations.

Franchises rose in popularity after World War II, and the corporate-franchise relationship since has generally been a happy one – that is, until COVID-19.

What’s their relationship?

Franchises are easier to start than a small business from scratch. You receive a business playbook and brand loyalty from corporate – if the business at large is doing well, chances are your franchise will mirror that. No need for independent advertising!

From the franchises, corporate gets an upfront fee and ongoing royalties. (For a McDonalds franchise, that’s $45k and 4% of monthly gross sales, respectively.)

Basically, it’s win-win. Both parties are happy.

Pandemic strain

The pandemic has shrunk margins across most industries, and the chain hotels, restaurants and services have been hit hard. As a result, corporate is adding more costs for franchisees, such as big cleaning bills and promotional discounts to bring back some revenue during COVID.

However, with corporate still taking the same amount from the franchises every month, these newly instated policies threaten to drive some stores into the ground – and franchisees are fighting back.

“I get that franchising isn’t a democracy,” said a Subway franchisee, who objected to the unprofitable “2-Subs-for-$10” promotion that corporate was pushing for. “But at the same time, it’s not a dictatorship.”

What I see here is corporate greed at work; they need to keep their margins up in a sinking economy, so they’re looking to the pockets of their franchisees to make up for that lost dough.

The pandemic has not been easy on any business (with the exception, of course, of Amazon, Facebook, and Tesla, which is a whole other story). However, that’s the draw of being connected to corporate – you are tied to something bigger than your individual store, and will thus stay afloat as long as they do. It’s a big reason why many opt for starting a franchise as opposed to starting their own, independent small business.

I’m glad to see individuals fighting back against corporate policies that don’t benefit them. They held up their side of the bargain – let’s see if corporate can continue to hold up theirs.

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Business News

What to do if you think you have been wrongfully terminated

(BUSINESS NEWS) Being fired hurts, but especially if you were wrongfully terminated. Here is what you can do if you need to take action.

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Stressed man staring at computer after being wrongfully terminated.

While there are plenty of ways an employer can legally fire an employee, there’s also a long list of unethical and illegal methods. If you suspect you’ve been wrongfully terminated from your job, it’s imperative that you fight back.

Common Signs of Wrongful Termination

Research shows that around 150,000 people are unjustly fired every year in the United States. That’s more than 410 people per day – roughly 17 people per hour. Here are some common signs that you’re a victim:

  • Violation of written rules or promises. The vast majority of employment is known as “at-will” employment. This means you may be fired at any time for any reason (so long as the reason is not illegal). However, if there’s a written statement or contract that implies job security, then you’re probably not an at-will employee. Review all of your employment documents to see what sort of language exists around the topic of termination.
  • Discrimination. It doesn’t matter if you’re an at-will employee or not, employers can never fire someone based on discrimination. It’s illegal – point blank, period. If you suspect you’ve been fired because of your color, race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, or pregnancy, discrimination could be to blame.
  • Breach of good faith. Employers are known to breach good faith when they do things like mislead employees regarding their chances for promotions; fabricate reasons for firing; transfer or fire an employee to prevent the collection of sales commissions; and other similar situations.

Every situation is different, but these three signs are clear indicators that you have a potential wrongful termination claim. How you proceed will determine what happens next.

How to Respond to a Wrongful Termination

Emotions tend to run high when you’re fired from a job. Whether you loved the job or not, it’s totally normal to run a little hot under the collar upon being wrongfully terminated. But how you handle the first several hours and days will determine a lot about how this situation unfolds. Now is not the time to fly off the handle and say or do something you’ll regret. Instead, take a diplomatic response that includes steps like:

1. Gather Evidence

Wrongful termination cases are usually more complicated than they first appear on the surface. It’s important that you focus on gathering as much evidence as you possibly can. Any information or documentation you collect will increase your chances for a successful outcome. This may include emails, screenshots, written contracts and documentation, voicemails, text messages, and/or statements from coworkers.

On a related note, remember that your former employer will be doing the same thing (if a claim is brought). Be on your best behavior and don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Avoid venting to coworkers or firing off short, snappy emails to your former boss. As the saying goes, anything you say or do can and will be used against you.

2. Hire an Attorney

Don’t try to handle your wrongful termination case on your own. Hire an experienced lawyer who specializes in situations like yours. This will give you a much better chance of obtaining a successful outcome.

3. Get Legal Funding

If you’re like most victims of wrongful termination, you find yourself with no immediate source of income. This can make it difficult to pay your bills and stay financially solvent in the short term. An employment lawsuit loan could help bridge the gap.

As Upfit Legal Funding explains, “Wrongful termination lawsuit loans provide the necessary financial assistance they need to reach a settlement. This funding helps cover basic living costs until the plaintiff is able to get assistance from their settlement.”

The best thing about these loans is that you only have to repay them if there’s a successful outcome. In other words, if the claim gets thrown out or denied, you owe nothing.

4. File the Proper Paperwork

Work closely with your attorney to make sure that your complaints and claims are filed with the appropriate regulatory agencies (and that you meet the required deadlines). Depending on the type of claim, there are different groups that oversee the complaint and can help you move in the proper direction.

Adding it All Up

Getting fired is serious business. And while there are plenty of legal reasons for being terminated from a job, it’s worth exploring what’s actually going on behind the scenes. If it’s found that your employer stepped out of line, you’ll be compensated in an appropriate manner. This won’t typically help you get your job back, but it can provide some financial rectification.

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Business News

Everyone should have an interview escape plan

(BUSINESS NEWS) A job interview should be a place to ask about qualifications but sometimes things can go south – here’s how to escape when they do.

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interview from hell

“So, why did you move from Utah to Austin?” the interviewer asked over the phone.

The question felt a little out of place in the job interview, but I gave my standard answer about wanting a fresh scene. I’d just graduated college and was looking to break into the Austin market. But the interviewer wasn’t done.

“But why Austin?” he insisted, “There can’t be that many Mormons here.”

My stomach curled. This was a job interview – I’d expected to discuss my qualifications for the position and express my interest in the company. Instead, I began to answer more and more invasive questions about my personal life and religion. The whole ordeal left me very uncomfortable, but because I was young and desperate, I put up with it. In fact, I even went back for a second interview!

At the time, I thought I had to put up with that sort of treatment. Only recently have I realized that the interview was extremely unprofessional and it wasn’t something I should have felt obligated to endure.

And I’m not the only one with a bad interview story. Slate ran an article sharing others’ terrible experiences, which ranged from having their purse inspected to being trapped in a 45-minute presentation! No doubt, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mistreatment by potential employers.

So, why do we put up with it?

Well, sometimes people just don’t know better. Maybe, like I was, they’re young or inexperienced. In these cases, these sorts of situations seem like they could just be the norm. There’s also the obvious power dynamic: you might need a job, but the potential employers probably don’t need you.

While there might be times you have to grit your teeth and bear it, it’s also worth remembering that a bad interview scenario often means bad working conditions later on down the line. After all, if your employers don’t respect you during the interview stage, it’s likely the disrespect will continue when you’re hired.

Once you’ve identified an interview is bad news, though, how do you walk out? Politely. As tempting as it is to make a scene, you probably don’t want to go burning bridges. Instead, excuse yourself by thanking your interviewers, wishing them well, and asserting that you have realized the business wouldn’t be a good fit.

Your time, as well as your comfort, are important! If your gut is telling you something is wrong, it probably is. It isn’t easy, but if a job interview is crossing the line, you’re well within your rights to leave. Better to cut your losses early.

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