Professional Service Agreement

United Airlines Sued for Allegedly Failing to Accommodate Religious Beliefs of Pilot

August 05, 2020

The EEOC is suing United Airlines for allegedly violating Title VII when it discriminated against a Buddhist pilot based on his religion when it refused to modify its addiction treatment program to change a requirement that conflicted with his religious beliefs. The pilot was diagnosed with alcohol dependency and lost the medical certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). United operates a program for its pilots with substance abuse problems that provides them treatment and sponsors them to obtain new medical certificates from the FAA. One of the requirements of United’s program is that pilots regularly attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The pilot, who is Buddhist, allegedly objected to the religious content of AA and sought to substitute regular attendance at a Buddhism-based peer support group. The EEOC contends that United refused to accommodate the pilot’s religious objection and, as a result, he was unable to obtain a new FAA medical certificate permitting him to fly again.