UNITED AIRLINES TO PAY $321,000 TO SETTLE SEXUAL HARASSMENT DISCRIMINATION SUIT
Pilot Repeatedly Posted Sexually Explicit Photos of a Flight Attendant To Websites for Years
United Airlines, Inc., a Chicago-headquartered international airline operating in over 300 airports across five continents, has agreed to pay $321,000, plus attorney’s fees, to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.
It is alleged that, over the course of many years, a United captain frequently posted explicit images of a flight attendant to multiple websites, without her consent, making reference to her name, home airport, and the airline’s tagline “Fly the Friendly Skies.” The EEOC’s suit asserted that the images were seen by co-workers of the flight attendant, as well as untold numbers of potential passengers, causing her humiliation and embarrassment and adversely affecting her work environment.
The EEOC maintained that United failed to prevent and correct the pilot’s behavior, even after the flight attendant made numerous complaints and provided substantial evidence to the airline of the pilot’s conduct. The EEOC asserted that the pilot was allowed to retire with benefits despite initiation of a criminal prosecution by the U.S. attorney’s office under federal internet stalking laws.
Such alleged inaction when an employer is aware of sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, including harassment that creates a hostile environment. The EEOC filed suit in 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.
“Employers are best served when they fulfill their obligation to be diligent in preventing and correcting sexual harassment, whether the offensive conduct takes place in the workplace or involves misconduct by an employee on the internet that affects the work environment,” said Philip Moss, a trial attorney in the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office. “This resolution can serve to send a message to employers that they should have robust anti-harassment policies that are vigorously self-enforced.”
The consent decree resolving this case, approved by U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez, requires the company to pay monetary damages of $321,000, plus attorney’s fees for the flight attendant and to provide notice to company employees of their protections under Title VII. The decree further requires the airline to revise its sexual harassment policies explicitly to include harassing conduct perpetrated through the internet or social media and affecting the work environment — whether on or off duty.
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