- The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), a union that represents more than 27,000 American Airlines flight attendants, has filed a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that the airline's attendance policy discriminates against women, according to a member alert from APFA.
- APFA said the policy "fast tracks" flight attendants — a group that is 75% female, it said — to potential discipline and discharge actions, while pilots — who are "overwhelmingly male," according to the APFA — are not subject to the policy.
- The flight attendants claim that the policy has a disparate impact on women, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Employment actions and policies can be problematic even if they do not intentionally discriminate against a protected group of workers. The EEOC recognizes both "disparate treatment" discrimination (intentional acts of overt discrimination) and "disparate impact" discrimination (neutral policies and practices that have a disproportionate, adverse impact on a protected group and that cannot be justified by business necessity).
Disparate impact tends to affect minorities and women, EEOC said. For instance: A group of black and Latino Amazon drivers sued the company after a background check policy had a disparate impact on them.
But disparate impact can also affect workers who are protected on the basis of age — a layoff targeting high-earning employees might have a disproportionate impact on long-tenured employees who happen to be older, for example. Similarly, recruiting efforts that focus on college campuses might unfairly exclude older workers. As such, attorneys have cautioned employers from using certain words like "young" or phrases such as "digital native" in job descriptions and postings.
According to the EEOC, in the context of employment tests and selection procedures, "business necessity" means something that is necessary to the safe and efficient performance of the job: "The challenged policy or practice should ... be associated with the skills needed to perform the job successfully. In contrast to a general measurement of applicants' or employees' skills, the challenged policy or practice must evaluate an individual's skills as related to the particular job in question."