The federal government is suing the largest regional airline in the United States for sex discrimination over allegations that the Utah-based airline subjected a female employee to a hostile working environment and then retaliated against her when she made a complaint.
The lawsuit has been brought against Skywest Airlines which provides regional services for some of the largest airlines in the U.S. including American, Delta and United Airlines.
Skywest also provides regional services for Alaska Airlines which, in 2018, made a bold commitment to prevent and address sexual misconduct on its airplanes and across its business.
But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims a veteran female employee at Skywest was subjected to daily explicit sexual conversations, including suggestions that she made money through prostitution.
The woman, whose identity has been kept anonymous by the EEOC, worked as a parts clerk in Skywest’s engineering department in Dallas, Texas and had worked for the airline for so long that she had her time at Skywest would see her through to retirement.
Instead, it’s alleged that she was effectively “pushed out” by Skywest because she didn’t feel safe at work due to a workplace culture that allowed “pervasive jokes about sexual violence”.
“Everyone deserves to feel safe at work,” commented Alexa Lang, a trial attorney at the EEOC on Thursday. “This employee had over a decade of experience at SkyWest and before the sexual harassment had intended to retire there,” Land continued.
The lawsuit alleges that explicit sexual conversations and conduct were a part and parcel of everyday working life at Skywest’s Parts and Maintenance Division in Dallas.
“Male co-workers made suggestions or requests that the female employee perform demeaning sex acts and made frequent jokes about rape and rape victims,” the EEOC will claim in court.
When the woman made a complaint to her managers, however, the airline decided to place her on indefinite administrative leave. The purpose of this was, apparently, to conduct sexual harassment training but this never actually occurred.
Skywest never proactively brought the employee back to work, and after several months on leave, she says she felt “compelled” to resign.
The EEOC intends to sue Skywest under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex and retaliation for reporting a hostile work environment.
The commission is seeking back pay for the woman, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. In addition, it’s hoped that should the EEOC win, the court will grant an injunction barring SkyWest from engaging in discriminatory treatment in the future.
According to the AAUW, women make up just 28 percent of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. One of the reasons for this huge disparity, the AAUW claims is male-dominated cultures that are “not supportive of or attractive to women and minorities”.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.