Porn, Sex Talk Justify Airline Pilots' Firing, Court Says

Blow-up pilot.JPG
'Something special in the air...'
Just how friendly are the friendly skies?

Not friendly enough to accommodate porn use and raunchy sex talk by lecherous pilots, according to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The San Francisco-based court grounded pilots Gregory Hawn, Michael Prince, and Aric Aldrich this week, ruling they can't claim gender discrimination after being fired for their "sexualized banter, crude jokes, and the sharing of crude and/or pornographic emails and websites." 

The three former Arizona-based flyboys with Executive Jet were sacked in 2003 after former flight attendant Robin McRea complained their aforementioned raunchy activity created a "hostile work environment." The pilots claimed to be baffled -- as McRea was often "an active participant in, or initiator of, much of the conduct of which she accused them."

Hanky-panky ranged from asking about colleagues' sex lives, to slapping colleagues on the ass, to bedding said colleagues.

Executive Jet's internal investigation and the work of an paid outside analyst failed to corroborate many of McRea's claims, and turned up plenty of testimony that the former flight attendant was a participant in much frat-like behavior. But the Equal Emplyment Opportunity Commission sided with McRea and the pilots were fired.

Sorry, the court of appeals has ruled you can't be my wingman anytime...
One year later, the pilots filed their own claim with the EEOC, claiming they were victims of sexual discrimination: "Plaintiffs complain that Executive Jet was aware that a group of five female flight attendants, one of whom was McRea had 'engaged in sexual e-mails [and] sexual discussions' similar to the conduct that led to plaintiffs' termination. Unlike plaintiffs, however, the female employees were not disciplined in any way, much less terminated."

The U.S. District Court in Arizona entered summary judgment in favor of Executive Jet. But the 9th saw things somewhat differently, ruling the district court was overly technical in ruling that different standards for the male and female employees could be excused because the groups reported to different superiors.

But while the 9th felt that the male and female employees were "similarly situated," it still felt the pilots deserved their fate: "Even if Executive Jet believed that the majority of McRea's allegations were not corroborated, and McCrea participated in some of the complained-of conduct, several instances of sexually harassing behavior by Aldrich, Prince, and Hawn are undisputed," reads the ruling.

As for whether it's fair that the male pilots' behavior got them fired and the female employees' didn't -- the court has a fairly straightforward response. The male employees' behavior resulted in a legal complaint. The female employees' didn't. Period. What's more, "Reports of inappropriate conduct by female employees were made only in the context of the independent investigation by an outsider, and contain no indication that the conduct was unwelcome or harassing to them." 

Tough luck for the pilots. Perhaps they need to redefine their definition of the phrase "we love to fly -- and it shows."

H/T   |   Courthouse News

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