Discriminatory policies may not be evident to those creating them until an unexpected scenario arises to challenge them. For instance, recently, a policy at United Airlines came under fire when a Buddhist pilot claimed it was discriminatory.
A religious exemption denied
Reports into the case state that the pilot lost his medical certificate after doctors diagnosed him with alcohol dependency. His employer, United Airlines, had a policy that required employees struggling with substance abuse to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) regularly in order to secure a medical certificate. Pilots must have this certificate to fly.
In this case, however, the pilot seeking recertification is Buddhist and objected to the religious elements of AA. Instead, he requested to substitute a Buddhism-based peer support group in place of AA.
The airline initially denied his request, and he could not obtain his FAA medical certificate.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit arguing that the policy requiring parties to attend AA discriminates against people on the basis of religion, as does the company’s refusal to make reasonable accommodations.
The parties recently reached a settlement. United will pay the pilot $305,000, revise their policy on religious accommodations and provide relevant training to employees.
Seeking a fair outcome in similar situations
Corporate policies can be highly complex and challenging to understand, and they typically are not blatantly discriminatory. In fact, most employees would only notice problematic policies once and when they run into an issue that challenges them.
If you do find yourself questioning the fairness of an employer’s policies, you can discuss your concerns with an attorney. If an investigation and analysis reveal that a policy violates a worker’s rights, taking legal action can be wise.
Filing a legal claim can help workers harmed by workplace discrimination. Parties can be eligible to collect damages, compensation and other remedies they may deserve.