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United Airlines to pay $850K to settle old EEOC complaint on overtime pay

Written by editor

United Airlines agreed to pay $850,000 to settle an old Equal Employment Opportunity Commission disability-discrimination lawsuit involving overtime-pay practices the carrier once held.

United Airlines agreed to pay $850,000 to settle an old Equal Employment Opportunity Commission disability-discrimination lawsuit involving overtime-pay practices the carrier once held.

The consent decree filed with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco notes specifically that in settling the litigation “United denies that its policy or any of its actions were in any improper or discriminatory.”

The San Francisco office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had the filed suit earlier this year against United on behalf of workers who were employed by the airline at San Francisco International Airport between the years 1998 through 2003, and who were denied overtime work because they were on light or limited duty.

The EEOC’s suit alleged that that practice — which United no longer follows — violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The complaint arose from a charge filed by Samuel Chetcuti, a storekeeper who worked for United at the San Francisco airport. Chetcuti has epilepsy, the EEOC noted, and was under medical restrictions that prevented him from operating heavy machinery or working above the ground “at heights.”

Those restrictions kept Chetcuti on “light duty” for the carrier, but they didn’t keep him from working overtime. In fact, he was medically cleared to work overtime, at its extra pay, but United barred him from doing so because it had a policy of prohibiting workers on light duty from working overtime.

While noting that “the policy that gave rise to this matter is no longer in effect,” under the consent decree signed by both United and EEOC the airline nonetheless promises that it “shall not discriminate against United employees at San Francisco International Airport on the basis of disability regarding elegibility for overtime.”

Because the alleged violations predate United’s late-2002 Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, the $850,000 in settlement money that is to be divided among the eligible current and former United workers is established as a noncontingent unsecured pre-petition claim against the carrier’s bankruptcy estate.

In a statement, EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William Tamayo said the UAL Corp. unit’s former policy of barring workers with restrictions from access to overtime work “runs counter to the Americans with Disabilities Act’s goal that each employee be evaluated individually on whether they can the job done, with or without an accommodation.”

He added that the regional office of the employee-rights enforcement agency “appreciate(s) that United Airlines has agreed to settle this case and rescind this policy.”