United wanted young, blue-eyed, blonde women to staff LA Dodgers flights, lawsuit says

FILE PHOTO: United Airlines planes are parked at their gates at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - United Airlines has been sued by two longtime flight attendants who say they were excluded from highly coveted assignments to work on charter flights for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team because of their racial background and age.

In a complaint filed on Wednesday with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Dawn Todd and Darby Quezada said they were passed over in favor of flight attendants who were "white, young, thin women who are predominately blond and blue-eyed," and fit a "certain look" that the Dodgers players liked.

Todd, 50, is Black, and Quezada, 44, is of Mexican, Black and Jewish descent. Both said they have worked for United for more than 15 years, and are seeking unspecified damages for alleged discrimination and harassment.

In a statement, United said: "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."

The Los Angeles Times reported the lawsuit earlier on Friday. The Dodgers are not a defendant. A team spokesperson said the Dodgers do not comment on pending litigation.

Todd and Quezada said they had been chosen for the Dodgers charter flight program, which could offer double or triple the compensation of standard flights, after United faced a similar lawsuit in 2020 over its staffing of athletic teams' flights.

They said matters changed last year when several white flight attendants were added to the program, eventually leading to Todd getting fewer assignments and Quezada being removed from the program entirely.

The complaint said that after Todd objected to being bypassed despite her seniority, United retaliated against her and Quezada, including when employees and managers called Todd the "flight's maid" and demeaned her in flights and meetings.

Both plaintiffs said United's treatment cost them income and led to severe panic attacks, anxiety, losses of self-esteem and sleep and other conditions, requiring psychological treatment.

The case is Quezada et al v United Airlines Inc et al, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County, No. 23STCV26112.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis)