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United Continental Sued by Black Pilots Alleging Bias

May 29, 2012

United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL:US), the world’s largest airline, was sued for racial discrimination by 22 black pilots who allege the company offers minority employees fewer promotions to upper management than whites.

The company’s “highly subjective decision making” about promotions discriminates against minority captains and operations supervisors, according to a complaint filed today in federal court in San Francisco. Minority captains are subject to a “dual employment track” and relegated to part-time jobs with less job security and opportunity for promotions, while non- minority employees get full-time, higher wage positions, the pilots said in the complaint.

Virtually all black employees at the Chicago-based company are in non-management positions, according to the complaint. The few blacks in management are promoted to give the appearance of diversity and then excluded from “informal” e-mails and social gatherings where operating procedures, managerial issues and corporate advancement opportunities are discussed, the pilots allege.

The employees are seeking an end to discriminatory practices, back pay and unspecified punitive damages.

“United does not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind,” Megan McCarthy, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. The company believes the lawsuit is without merit and will defend against it, she said.

The company was formed in 2010 when United Airlines parent UAL Corp. merged with Continental Airlines Inc.

The case is Johnson v. United Continental, 12-2730, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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