The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has announced a lawsuit against United Airlines for failing to discipline a pilot they say was harassing a flight attendant.
The government alleges this pilot “frequently posted sexually explicit images of a United flight attendant to various websites… referencing the airline’s tagline ‘Fly the Friendly Skies.” They argue United was aware of the harassment “but took no responsibility to put a stop to it.” Make no mistake these were x-rated photos.
The airline disputes the allegations, without getting into specifics:
We have reviewed the allegations in the complaint and disagree with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s description of the situation. United does not tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace and will vigorously defend against this case.
There’s apparently no allegation that the pilot’s conduct was illegal. He presumably owned the photos (in other words, I imagine he took them and at the time the flight attendant may have been a willing participant). However he sounds like an absolute jerk, I do feel badly for the flight attendant based ont he EEOC’s description of the situation, and there’s potential employer liability.
United is sort of caught between scylla and charybdis. Insuring the flight attendant doesn’t work with the pilot isn’t enough, she might work with other flight attendants who have seen the photos and this causes her embarrassment. But does United fire the union pilot for legal conduct outside the workplace? And would that even help, if the issue is other employees continuing to see the photos?
It’s a terrible situation for the woman, but what’s United to do here? There may be legal obligations but it’s certainly a difficult scenario that employers can only really hope they don’t wind up in the middle of.
What strikes me though is that United pilots have also run a string of brothels around Houston, botched the castration of a transgender woman and boozed it up prior to flight. And the thing is in each case these are different United pilots.