Former Brisbane flight attendant Jessica Watson, who refused to wear a face mask while on the job, has lost her case for unfair dismissal against Qantas, according to local media.
According to The Australian, the Fair Work Commission rejected Watson’s unfair dismissal claim, stating in a 27-page judgement that it was a “lawful and reasonable direction by Qantas” to wear a mask. It also noted that the flight attendant’s position was not actually terminated.
“[Watson] had a number of options. She could attend work as directed, or she could attend an independent medical examination to try to obtain medical evidence to support her assertions,” he said, referring to Watson’s claim that she couldn’t wear a mask.
Instead, she opted to instruct her lawyer to communicate her resignation.
The Australian reported that Watson was offered the alternative option of wearing a face shield, but she refused.
Watson’s general practitioner, Dr. Philip Stowell, said that while she had “no medical condition of note,” the requirement to wear a face mask caused her anxiety.
“This makes her extremely anxious, and she finds she has trouble performing [her job] safely,” Stowell wrote.
“I know of no research showing any significant benefit from wearing masks, and I doubt the legality of such requirements. My advice and opinion are that she not be required to wear masks at work.”
The Australian reported that Peter Prasad, Qantas Medical’s national manager of occupational health, noted the benefits of wearing face masks despite the low risk of transmission on aircraft. However, he stressed that Qantas would never force someone with underlying health conditions to wear a mask.
He told the Fair Work Commission that masks were required to prevent an occurrence of and protection from COVID-19.
There has only been one case of in-flight transmission between Qantas passengers, which was recorded early in the pandemic.
Watson brought her case against National Jet Systems, which Qantas acquired in 2020.
The airline group announced its own mandate for vaccination of staff after it failed to have government mandate vaccinations.