United Airlines is being accused in a new lawsuit of staffing athletic teams’ charter flights with flight attendants who are “young, white, female, and predominately blond/blue-eyed.”
According to the suit obtained by USA TODAY, which was filed Friday by Kim Guillory, a Black woman, and Sharon Tesler, a Jewish woman, both “over the age of 39,” Major League Baseball, National Collegiate Athletic Association and National Football League teams including the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, and New Orleans Saints have flown on team charter flights over the past several years staffed with “dedicated crews” that were unfairly staffed with crew members who “fit a specific visual image.”
“United Airlines is proud of our track record on diversity, equity and inclusion,” the airline told USA TODAY on Sunday in a statement provided by spokesperson Jonathan Guerin. “While we cannot comment on this ongoing litigation, the flight attendants included in our sports team charter program are largely representative of our overall flight attendant population in regards to age and race. Importantly, flight attendant eligibility to work a charter flight is based solely on performance and attendance and has nothing to do with age, race or gender.”
The lawsuit claims teams have the option to fly with either an “open time crew,” which opens the door for any flight crew member and results in a higher level of “diversity among age, race and gender,” or “dedicated crew,” which it says United “encourages a majority of its customers to elect to hire.” These “dedicated crews,” the lawsuit claims, are made up of young, white and “predominantly blond/blue-eyed” women.
“The selection and assignment of the In flight Charter Coordinators, ‘dedicated crews,’ and the ‘dedicated list’ for the charter program was, and continues to be, unlawfully based on race and ancestry, age, and gender,” the lawsuit alleges.
Tesler, a United employee of 36 years, said she experienced “multiple incidents of employees at United discriminating against Jewish individuals,” with both offensive comments about Jewish and Israeli people and comments about her own dark hair, which she alleges has been called “Jewish hair.” She says she was told to cut her hair to “align with United’s visual image of a stereotypically white flight attendant.”
Guillory, a flight attendant who has been working for United for two years and was given seniority based on her 26 years of employment at Continental Airlines, claimed she has been “subjected to ongoing discrimination, harassment and retaliation that has been escalating in severity and frequency” and had brought up her concerns about the lack of diversity among crew members on NFL charter flights several times.
Despite United’s policy against accepting gifts over $25, dedicated crew members “also receive tickets to and the ability to attend games and playoff games including the Super Bowl, extremely valuable passes granting field access (which are not even available to the general public), merchandise, and more,” according to the lawsuit.