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Employers Pay Nearly $340K to Settle Religious and Sexual Orientation Discrimination Allegations

November 16, 2022

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has separately reached settlements totaling $339,781 with two employers, including United Airlines, to resolve allegations of religious and sexual orientation discrimination. The employers also agreed to provide training and take other steps to avoid further violations of Title VII.

Religious discrimination.To settle the EEOC’s allegations that it violated Title VII when it discriminated against a Buddhist pilot, United Airlines will pay $305,000 and provide other relief. According to the lawsuit, the pilot was diagnosed with alcohol dependency and lost the medical certificate issued to him by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). United requires its pilots with substance abuse problems to regularly attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in order to obtain new medical certificates. The pilot objected to the religious content of AA and sought to substitute regular attendance at a Buddhism-based peer support group. United allegedly refused to accommodate the objection and, consequently, the pilot was unable to obtain a new medical certificate permitting him to fly again.

Under a consent decree resolving the lawsuit, United will pay to the pilot $305,000 in back pay and damages and will reinstate him while allowing him to attend a non-12-step peer recovery program. Moving forward, United will accept religious accommodation requests, instate a new policy on religious accommodations, and provide training to its employees.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the District of New Jersey; the case is No. 20-cv-9110.

Sexual orientation discrimination. The EEOC reached a voluntary conciliation agreement with Resourceful Environmental Services to resolve charges of Title VII discrimination filed by an employee alleging a hostile work environment based on their sexual orientation. The EEOC determined the employer subjected a male employee to a hostile work environment and prevented him from returning to work based on his sexual orientation. Under the conciliation agreement, the employer will pay $34,781 to the employee. It will also provide to all supervisors and employees mandatory annual training on hostile work environments based on sexual orientation and will educate its employees on the Supreme Court’s decision recognizing sexual orientation discrimination as illegal sex discrimination under federal law. Further, Resourceful Environmental Services agreed that it would not subject employees to a hostile work environment, refuse to call employees to work because of their sexual orientation, or retaliate against employees.