Since August 1, 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued multiple companies for allegations of sexual harassment, one of the most prominent of those companies was United Airlines, Inc. (United Air). United is an international airline that was founded in 1934. It has more than 300 airports and over 89,800 employees.
Details of the Lawsuit
According to the EEOC, the United violated federal law by exposing a female flight attendant to a hostile work environment of sexual harassment over a multi-year period. According to the lawsuit, a United captain regularly posted sexually explicit images of a United flight attendant to various websites, making personally identifying information like the flight attendant’s name, home airport. The posts would sometimes reference the airline’s tagline “Fly the Friendly Skies.” The lawsuit alleged that the post was seen by the flight attendants’ co-workers and that it harmfully impacted her working environment. United failed to correct and prevent the pilot’s behavior, even after the flight attendant made numerous complaints and provided substantial evidence to support her complaints, the EEOC said.
The alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division (EEOC v. United Airlines, Inc., Civil Action No. 5:18-cv-817) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.
The lawsuit asks the court to order United to provide the flight attendant with appropriate relief, including compensatory and punitive damages, and a permanent injunction enjoining the company from engaging in any further gender-discriminatory practices. The EEOC also asks the court to order the company to institute and carry out policies and practices that eradicate and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Employers have an obligation to take steps to stop sexual harassment in the workplace when they learn it is occurring through cyber-bullying via the internet and social media,” said Philip Moss, a trial attorney in the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office. “When employers fail to take action, they fail their workers and enable the harassment to continue.”
EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Eduardo Juarez added, “Here, United was aware of the intimate details of how its pilot was harassing its flight attendant but took no responsibility to put a stop to it. As a result, over a period of many years, the flight attendant had to work every day in fear of humiliation if a co-worker or customer recognized her from the pilot’s postings. This is unacceptable, and the EEOC is here to fight such misconduct.”
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
This lawsuit could force companies and managers to take corrective action. Women Workforce Federation’s gender equity certification program could help employers promote a safe and respectful work environment while avoiding the pitfalls of costly litigation. The program can protect the organization from bad publicity that could negatively impact its reputation and bottom line.