United Airlines Sued by the Federal Government For Failing to Stop Pilot’s Sexual Harassment

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Why should the fact that the pilot is union matter in deciding whether he should be fired in this case? Should union pilots be given more leeway for sexual harassment?

  2. Gary with a little research you would discover that the pilot is currently serving 41 months in prison for posting revenge porn photos of the FA, who was formerly in a relationship with him. Some of the photo/video was taken without her consent. This could happen in any industry and is not unique to aviation. United has obligations under federal law to prevent harassment of its employees and to take action so that it does not have a hostile work environment. It appears they failed here but no facts thus far suggesting this is more than one bad apple.

  3. Gary, you have the law wrong. Location (i.e., outside work) isn’t a consideration, when co-workers get together for drinks after work, and if the company knows of repeated sexual harrassment of coworkers by coworkers at those drinking sessions, it has a strong obligation to do something. Same if racial or religious harassment occurred then.

  4. Even if they separate that pilot from that specific flight attendant, bringing in another crew just forces them to work with (under?) a man who is a vengeful, sexist, asshole. This isn’t a “he got drunk one night and did something dumb” situation, he proved he was unfit to be on a team — any team.

  5. WHOA!!!! I agree what should him being in the Union justify his behavior? He’s a jerk and a creep. He should be fired and charged!!!!!! Once again…do women who stand up for themselves have to be silenced because of a man’s particular position? This is VERY sad and unacceptable.

  6. There appears to be a need for the cleaners to be put through United. Two recent experiences of mine:
    – a HNL – SFO flight ran out of food,
    – passengers on a flight to Newark were told they were about to land in La Guardia.

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