EEOC Sues United After Pilot Continuously Posted Nudes of Female Flight Attendant
So, when does bad behavior warrant a six-figure settlement, spark an FBI investigation, constitute criminal stalking, and lead to a three-year prison sentence, but not rise to the level sexual harassment at work? When your employer is United Airlines, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The EEOC sued the airline last week on behalf of a female flight attendant who claims a male pilot posted nude and sexually suggestive photos (some including her work uniform) of her online for over a decade without her permission. The woman filed numerous lawsuits and human resources complaints, but United concluded the pilot's actions did not constitute sexual harassment in the workplace. Even after the EEOC's lawsuit, the airline asserted it "will vigorously defend against this case."
No Adequate Disciplinary, Preventative or Corrective Action
According to the lawsuit, the flight attendant and the pilot, Mark Uhlenbrock, began a consensual relationship in 2002. Part of that relationship included Uhlenbrock taking pictures of her in "provocative poses," some nude. That relationship ended in 2006 when she found out Uhlenbrock posted the racy photos online, without her consent. But the posting didn't end when the relationship did.
For ten years, Uhlenbrock continued to post sexually explicit images of her, at times identifying her by name, occupation, and home airport. Some images included her flight uniform, and Uhlenbrock would comment that she was a "new reason to 'Fly the Friendly Skies.'" Despite this link to their employer, and that the images had been seen by at least two of her co-workers, United never stepped in to stop the behavior. Even when, in 2016, she demonstrated that Uhlenbrock was posting photos when he was still on United's clock during layovers between flights, "no adequate disciplinary, preventative or corrective action was taken."
At one point the flight attendant was forced to take a leave of absence from the airline "due to the emotional harm suffered." Uhlenbrock retired with full benefits.
Fly the Hostile Skies
This is not the first time the flight attendant tried to stop Uhlenbrock. The New York Times reports she filed three civil suits against him, and he agreed to pay her $100,000 in damages. Uhlenbrock also pleaded guilty to stalking in 2016 and is currently serving a 41-month prison sentence. The EEOC lawsuit claims United discriminated against her and failed to protect her from a hostile work environment.
- Find Employment Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory)
- Six Tips on Sexual Harassment at Work (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
- 2017: The Year in Sexual Assault, Harassment (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
- Uber Demonstrates How Not to Respond to Sexual Harassment Claims (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
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