"We have historically not been provided the same
opportunities to advance into management as Caucasian
employees, and we simply want a level playing field,"
said Los Angeles-based Captain Mario Ecung. "There needs
to be a thoroughly transparent, fair, and competitive
process in place so that qualified employees can apply,
and will be considered, for management positions."
Despite their nearly 600 years of combined experience
with UAL, not one of the 23 Plaintiffs has ever held a
permanent mid- or senior-level management position at
the company. While non-minorities are being groomed for
management through temporary Special Assignment
positions -- which are more lucrative and provide
employees with more opportunities for advancement and
greater job security -- African-Americans are excluded.
Plaintiffs brought this case in Northern California due
to the large number of Special Assignments -- and
consequent promotions -- at UAL's largest maintenance
facility and Asian hubs on the West Coast. Furthermore,
the online job posting and application web service Taleo,
which UAL has used for many years to track management
applications, is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Acquired by Oracle Corp. earlier this year, Taleo's
servers hold data reflecting who applied for which
positions, who made the selections, and ultimately who
received the promotions.
"The employment records concerning promotions at United
are on Taleo's servers," said Dow W. Patten, of Smith
Patten, attorneys for the Johnson v. United Continental
plaintiffs. "The servers are here, the data is here, and
Oracle can try to hide it all they want, but the
employment records that are at issue in this case are
located in Dublin, California, near San Francisco."
UAL has a long history of race discrimination issues
dating back to the 1970s. In the 1995 release from the
EEOC Consent Decree against United Airlines, Judge
Hubert Will commented, "We caution that our conclusion
is not a determination that employment discrimination
may no longer be a problem at United..." but that "any
current disputes are properly addressed through fresh
complaints to United and the EEOC..."
"This is the fresh complaint," stated Captain Richard
John about Johnson v. United Continental. "This is the
complaint of those who have met face-first the glass
ceiling repercussions of the consent decree, who have
made complaints and worked for change, only to be met
with more of the same."
2010, current United CEO Jeff Smisek stated, "There is a
part of Continental's history that I am not proud of...
I had never heard of Continental Airlines, but Marlon
Green [an African American pilot] had, and he wanted to
work for us... Did we turn him down because the other
candidates were more highly qualified than him? No. We
turned him down for one reason and one reason only,
because of the color of his skin." At the 2010 national
convention, the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People (NAACP) passed a resolution entitled
"In Support of More Diversity and Advancement at United
Airlines and Other Air Carriers", calling upon United to
proactively address the lack of opportunity in senior
"These brave Supervisors and Captains are continuing the
struggle for equal opportunity in the airline industry
started by the Tuskegee Airmen and Marlon Green, among
others," said Spencer F. Smith, of Smith Patten. "This
lawsuit serves to ensure that there will be no more
Band-Aids for this long-festering discrimination at
United. Only transparency and a structural commitment to
change will ensure that the glass ceiling into senior
management at United is finally shattered."