Black Pilots Discrimination Suit Doesn’t Fly

Black pilots sue
Black pilots sue

Twenty-three black pilots must provide more evidence if their claims of employment discrimination are to survive against United Airlines. U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney threw out their discrimination suit Thursday, but kept the door open to the pilots’ filing of an amended complaint by May 20 to fix its shortcomings.

The 23 African-American employees of United Continental Holdings and Continental Airlines Inc., claim the airline failed to promote minorities based on race.  They assert the airline used a two-track system to keep them in lower paying or part-time assignments.  In addition, they claimed that 11 of the 23 were subjected to retaliation and hostile work enforcement because they pressed the claims.

The suit claims violation of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

The pilots said they were precluded from applying for 53 promotions and special assignments, either because they were not posted as open positions or were posted for short periods of time.

Chesney found that on claims of a pattern and practice of discrimination in pay based on race, the plaintiffs failed to provide sufficient facts to support their theory.

She also pointed to multiple problems in the pilots’ complaint, including a showing of how they may be exempt from a requirement that they first exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing the lawsuit.

She also agreed with the airline that the pilots failed to notify the airline of the full scope of their retaliation claims and of a link between the pilots’ pursuit of their rights and a pattern of antagonism at work.

“Accordingly, plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently allege a causal link exists between the protected activity and any adverse employment action,” Chesney wrote.

With the one exception of a pilot at the Dulles, Virginia hub operations who applied and was not hired for operations area manager, the remaining plaintiffs failed to provide enough evidence the airline was on notice of potential discrimination.

She gave the pilots three weeks to revise the case to sufficiently detail the allegations of discrimination in promotion and wages based on race.

Case: Johnson v. United Continental Holdings Inc., No. 12-cv-2730MMC

Photo: The Network Journal

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