Airlines Operating in New York and New Jersey Face Criticism for Alleged Sex Discrimination and Other Labor Practices

Three airlines are facing allegations of unfair labor practices and sex discrimination in several proceedings. A coalition of U.S.-based airlines and labor unions issued a report earlier this year claiming that the three airlines, which are based in the Persian Gulf region and fly out of airports in New York and New Jersey, engage in unfair competition and unlawful employment practices. The federal government is investigating similar claims. An agency of the United Nations (UN) recently ruled that one of the airlines engaged in ongoing sex discrimination against female employees. While these proceedings generally involve international law and treaties, they could still have an impact on workers who deal with these airlines in New Jersey and New York.

The U.S. began entering into agreements with other countries known as “Open Skies Partnerships” (OSPs) in 1992. It currently has agreements with more than 100 countries. These agreements, according to the U.S. Department of State, allow airlines to expand international service by “eliminating government interference” in various air transportation matters. Since different countries provide different levels of protection for business and labor interests, however, OSPs can result in unfair advantages for some airlines.

A coalition of three U.S. airlines and labor unions, known as the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies (POFS), issued a report in early 2015 criticizing three airlines: Qatar Airways, based in Doha, Qatar; Etihad Airways, based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; and Emirates Airlines, based in Dubai, UAE. All three airlines fly out of JFK International Airport in New York City, and Etihad Airways reportedly sometimes flies out of New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport.

The POFS report alleges that these airlines have received $42 billion in government subsidies since 2004, which violates their OSPs with the U.S. The unions also allege two specific types of unlawful employment practices:

– Qatar and the UAE prohibit collective bargaining, which prevents flight attendants and other airlines employees from forming a union and engaging in other concerted activities.

– The airlines’ employment policies allegedly discriminate against female employees and effectively exclude LGBT individuals from employment altogether.
Each of these practices violates various U.S. labor and employment laws at the state and federal levels.

In April 2015, the U.S. Departments of State, Transportation, and Commerce announced that they are reviewing allegations against the three airlines, and they requested input from stakeholders. Etihad Airways submitted a response, in which it generally denied the allegations but did not say much about the employment-related claims.

Allegations of sex discrimination involve all three airlines, but they appear to focus on Qatar Airways. A standard employment contract for female employees allegedly requires them to obtain the company’s permission before getting married or otherwise changing their marital status. It also allegedly requires pregnant employees to notify the company as soon as they learn about the pregnancy, and it gives the employer the right to terminate employment on the spot. Male employees are reportedly not subject to comparable restrictions.

Any of these practices is a clear violation of federal law in the U.S. and state law in New Jersey. International law may also provide some means to fight against these practices. In June 2015, the International Labor Organization (ILO), an agency of the UN based in Geneva, Switzerland, found that Qatar Airways violated an international agreement regarding employment discrimination.

If you are dealing with a sex discrimination matter in New Jersey or New York, contact the Resnick Law Group today at our website, at 973-781-1204, or at (646) 867-7997 to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case.

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