America First Legal Files Complaints with the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Regarding Illegal Racial and Sex Discrimination at American, Southwest, and United Airlines

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, America First Legal (AFL) filed complaints with the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), requesting immediate investigations into American Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines for apparent breaches of their contractual obligations under federal contracting law. 

Executive Order 11246 requires that every federal contract include an Equal Opportunity Clause, prohibiting the contractor from “discriminat[ing] against any employee or applicant for employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin,” and ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not fund unlawful discrimination. If the contractor breaches this obligation, then the Secretary of Labor may cancel, terminate, or suspend its contracts, and the contractor may be declared ineligible for further federal government contracts and subject to other sanctions. 

AFL previously filed federal civil rights complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against these airlines for alleged illegal racial and sex discrimination. 

American Airlines:

Despite receiving over $140 million in federal government contracts since 2008, American Airlines openly acknowledges—even touts—its racial, sexual, and gender discrimination in its recruitment and hiring programs. American Airlines states on its website that “[d]iversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are foundational to the American Airlines culture and are embedded into the fabric of who we are as a company. We are the global leader in commercial aviation, and therefore must carry the banner around the world for DEI.”

On January 13, 2022, American Airlines stated that it had “become more intentional in [its] Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts” and reported on the progress of its intentional goals to unlawfully discriminate in its hiring and development practices and made the following representations:

Southwest Airlines:

Despite receiving over $330 million in federal government contracts since 2007, Southwest Airlines appears to be engaged in discriminatory practices. Since at least 2020, Southwest has engaged in discriminatory hiring and promotion processes under the guise of creating “more diverse, equitable, and inclusive opportunities and candidate pipelines.” 

Southwest readily admits that, in 2020, it set a goal of “[d]oubling the percentage of racial diversity and increasing gender diversity in our Senior Management Committee (Executives) by 2025 as compared to 2020” and “[i]ncreasing diversity in Senior Leadership as compared to 2020.” 

Southwest’s stated goals in 2020 were to have 20% “Racial/Ethnic Diversity” in its Senior Management Committee by 2025 and 16% “Racial/Ethnic Diversity” in Senior Leadership by the same 2025.

AFL is concerned that Southwest is following through on its promise to engage in discriminatory race-based and gender-based hiring practices through its use of explicit quotas, all in the name of “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” Specifically, and as described in Southwest’s 2022 One Report:

United Airlines:

Despite receiving over $150 million in federal government contracts since 2008, United Airlines is knowingly, intentionally, and systematically violating its equal opportunity covenants and assurances. In an interview on June 20, 2021, United CEO Scott Kirby described diversity quotas in United’s training academy, the Aviate Academy. Kirby said that to increase diversity among pilots, “[w]e have committed that 50% of the classes will be women or people of color.”  

He further described that “for every job, when we do an interview, we require women or people of color to be involved in the interview process.” Kirby confirmed that, at the time of the interview, “only” 19% of United pilots were women and people of color.  Increasing diversity among pilots accordingly entails refusing to consider or hire qualified nonminority pilots. 

United’s 2022 Corporate Responsibility Report also describes unlawful benchmarks, classifications, and quotas: 

United explicitly commits to increase the hiring of women and “people of color:” 

United’s “Supplier diversity program” furthers United’s focus “on supporting businesses from historically underrepresented groups such as women and minorities.” Further, United stated that it intends to spend “at least $1 billion annually with women-and-diverse-owned businesses by 2050,” and has advanced on that goal by spending $151 million with such businesses in 2021-22.

Corporations that brazenly and illegally put race and sex above skill and merit should be prepared to face the consequences, and their federal contracts should be suspended or terminated for blatant violations of their contractual terms. Americans should be able to board a plane confident that their pilot, crew, and any involved parties are hired because they are the best candidates for the job, not because they fulfill arbitrary and racist hiring quotas. AFL will not cease in its fight for equality. 

Statement from Gene Hamilton, America First Legal Vice President and General Counsel:

“The American people should not have money taken out of their paychecks to facilitate facially discriminatory actions by federal contractors. But that’s precisely what happens when federal contractors embrace policies that–as they openly admit on their websites and in other public materials–discriminate against Americans based on immutable characteristics. All discrimination is wrong, and we expect the federal government to enforce federal law as Congress directed, “ said Gene Hamilton.

Read the American letter here, the Southwest letter here, and the United letter here.

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Photo creditYakobchuk Olena/Adobe Stock Images

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