United Airlines, the world's largest passenger carrier, was slapped this week with a lawsuit charging that the gigantic, international partnership refuses to promote black pilots and operations supervisors.

The suit is the third attempt within three years to seek legal redress for what plaintiffs say are a long series of workplace abuses predicated on skin color.

In the suit filed in United States District Court in San Francisco, 24 African Americans contend that they have been systematically denied promotions, despite their performance and demonstrated excellence, because they are black. This is a practice, they allege "which historically has taken place across half of the nation's states."

All 24 plaintiffs contend that they have been passed over for promotions because of their race. Half of them participated in a federal equal employment discrimination case filed against United in 2010.  Those complainants allege that United retaliated against their action by refusing to promote them and by withholding special assignments as well.

A spokeswoman for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington, D.C., (EEOC), told BlackAmericaWeb.com, "we are not at liberty to discuss or comment on plaintiff involvement in a complaint or other action taken by the commission."   

The suit, filed by attorney Erick C. Van Hespen, demands that United cease its alleged discriminatory practices and correct them by promoting the plaintiffs.

BlackAmericaWeb.com repeatedly attempted to contact Van Hespen, but without success.

United, with headquarters in Chicago and its hub at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Dallas, is a founding member of the Star Alliance, the world's largest airline partnership. United operates 702 aircraft and serves more than 1,000 destinations in over 1780 countries.

Its 702 aircraft give United the second spot among all aircraft owned by airline companies worldwide.

The partnership, legally known as United Continental Holdings, Inc., counts 86, 852 employees.

BlackAmericaWeb.com asked a spokesman for United, Rahsaan Johnson, the partnership's director of public relations, for figures on the number of black pilots who steer the corporation's aircraft. A requested a figure for the number of African Americans at the highest levels of the partnership's command also went unfulfilled.

Johnson, in his comment e-mailed to BlackAmericaWeb.com, said, "Because litigation is pending, I'm not able to reply questions specifically. However, United does not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind.  We believe this lawsuit is without merit and will vigorously defend ourselves."

One of the 24 pilots, Captain Leon Miller, in a statement for news media released this week, said, Tthe struggle for inclusion at United Airlines is a long-standing issue that many have tried to address over long period of time."   

The plaintiffs, whose battle against United's alleged discriminatory practices began in 2009, say the partnership's managers and supervisors are "highly subjective" judging African Americans vying for promotions.

As such, according to the plaintiffs, "the company's employment policies involve uncontrolled, subjective criteria that are applied in an arbitrary manner, further promoting racial biases and stereotypes to the detriment of many extremely qualified management candidates."

These judgments, black employees maintain, are based on rationals which, in effect, build much higher barriers for them to hurdle, as opposed to the ones used to select whites for promotions.

United's tolerance of these alleged practices place blacks at a distinct disadvantage, they're unable to circumvent through excellent performances, the plaintiffs contend and "violate state and federal laws."

The plaintiffs also allege that "nearly all black employees hold non-managerial positions." African Americans having some of them, they say, "are left out of critical e-mail communication and social gatherings in which important issues and advancement opportunities are discussed."


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