Two veteran United Airlines flight attendants claim in a lawsuit they were removed from working charter flights for the Los Angeles Dodgers because they were not young, White and thin.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, Oct. 25, by Darby Quezada, 44, and Dawn Todd, 50, in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accuses United Airlines of racial and religious discrimination. Quezada is of Black, Mexican and Jewish descent and Todd is Black. Both have worked for United for more than 15 years.
“Major American corporations like United Airlines must understand that it is illegal to make staffing decisions based on an employee’s race and looks, even if it is meant to please major clients like the Los Angeles Dodgers,” attorney Sam S. Yebri said in a prepared statement. “United’s blatantly discriminatory staffing decisions allowed the cancer of racism and antisemitism to metastasize on the flights themselves.”
United Airlines denied the accusations.
“United fosters an environment of inclusion and does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We believe this lawsuit is without merit and intend to defend ourselves vigorously,” said United Airlines spokesman Charles Hobart.
Dodgers management declined to comment.
“We do not comment on any pending litigation,” said Joe Jareck, senior director of public relations for the Dodgers, in an email.
It is the second time in three years that United Airlines has been sued by minority flight attendants for its allegedly discriminating staffing practices on charter flights for collegiate and professional sports teams. The first lawsuit was settled, resulting in the addition of Quezada and Todd to the charter crew, Yebri said.
“United’s charter airline program for professional sports teams has a long, troubled history,” said the latest lawsuit. “For years, United’s Inflight Charter Program has been riddled with allegations of discrimination, racism and sexism.”
Working the Dodgers charter flights is considered a plum assignment. Crew members earn more money for longer flights, receive premium accommodations and higher per diem compensation, and often receive valuable sporting event tickets, field passes and rare sports merchandise, the suit said.
After extensive interviews, Quezada was chosen for the program in 2020 and Todd in 2022. Later that year, several White, female attendants were hired for the program without having to interview, the suit alleged.
“When Todd and Quezada asked United why certain flight attendants were added to the ‘dedicated crew’ or ‘dedicated list’ without having to interview like they did, Todd and Quezada were told that these White flight attendants fit a ‘certain look’ that the Dodgers’ players liked,” the suit claimed.
Quezada and Todd also alleged they were subjected to racist conduct by some of the other charter attendants. Quezada said she was referred by attendants as the “flight maid” because they needed a Mexican to clean the bathrooms. Quezada also was derided for the size of her hips and for being Jewish, the suit said.
Their complaints to United Airlines management went unheeded.
The alleged discrimination caused Quezada and Todd to suffer “severe panic attacks, vomiting, migraines, anxiety, loss of self-esteem, humiliation, the inability to eat, loss of sleep, and emotional distress, which has required psychological treatment,” said the suit.
The attendants are seeking unspecified damages and demanding a jury trial.
“The unrelenting racist and antisemitic comments were demoralizing and dehumanizing,” Quezada said in a prepared statement. “Blatant discrimination like this should not be tolerated in 2023.”