A gay auditor at the D.C.-based Air Transport Association of America filed a lawsuit in September charging the group with paying him a ‚Äúsubstantially‚ÄĚ lower salary than others with similar job duties because of his sexual orientation.
Arlington, Va., resident Stephen Farina, who has worked for the association since 1992, charges in the lawsuit that the association, also known as Airlines for America or A4A, retaliated against him after he filed a sexual orientation discrimination complaint against the group over the salary issue before the D.C. Office of Human Rights in May.
‚ÄúDuring plaintiff‚Äôs employment, plaintiff‚Äôs supervisor made derogatory comments about plaintiff‚Äôs sexual orientation when he stated on several occasions that he opposed gay rights and gay marriage [and] referred to plaintiff as a ‚Äėfag‚Äô and a ‚Äėbonafide bone sucker‚Äô to plaintiff‚Äôs subordinate,‚ÄĚ the lawsuit charges.
It says the same supervisor, who is not identified in the lawsuit, ‚Äúmade disparaging comments towards another gay employee under his supervision.‚ÄĚ
Victoria Day, a spokesperson for the association, responded to a request by the Washington Blade for a comment on the lawsuit with a one sentence statement: ‚ÄúA4A does not tolerate discrimination in any form and intends to vigorously dispute these allegations.‚ÄĚ
D.C. Superior Court Judge Anthony Epstein, who is presiding over the case, issued a ruling on Dec. 13 denying a motion by A4A calling for the dismissal of the case based on procedural grounds.
Epstein ordered the two parties to participate in a court required mediation process while setting a timetable for pre-trial information gathering and pre-trial motions if the mediation is unsuccessful.
Farina told the Blade he spent nearly four years attempting without success to address with A4A‚Äôs upper management what he calls¬†A4A‚Äôs discriminatory employment practices toward him regarding his salary.
His lawsuit says he began work with the A4A in 1992 as a staff auditor at a salary of $28,000. It says A4A officials ‚Äúhad knowledge that plaintiff is gay‚ÄĚ throughout most of his tenure with the organization.
According to the lawsuit, in August 2001, Farina was promoted to manager of audits with an annual salary of $61,000. Around February 2008 his title changed to director of industry audits, which brought a raise to $68,000.
Farina told the Blade that authoritative studies of the industry show that people holding similar jobs with other employers and others with similar job duties at A4A make between $100,000 and $160,000.
‚ÄúPlaintiff‚Äôs principal role is to provide guidance and oversight for vendors hired to operate 60 of the largest jet fuel storage and distribution systems in the United States and Canada,‚ÄĚ the lawsuit says. ‚ÄúOn information and belief, other similarly situated non-gay directors are paid substantially more than plaintiff.‚ÄĚ
The lawsuit calls for $1 million or more in damages to be determined at trial to compensate for ‚Äúlost pay, front pay, lost benefits, pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, interest [and] reasonable attorney‚Äôs fees,‚ÄĚ among other things.
Farina said he dropped his Human Rights Office complaint and filed the lawsuit at the advice of his attorney after determining¬†a lawsuit would be a more effective means of addressing his discrimination complaint.
Farina‚Äôs lawsuit was filed three months before the Human Rights Campaign released its 2012 Corporate Equality Index ratings of U.S. corporations on personnel policies pertaining to LGBT employees.
Most of the major U.S. airline companies received ratings of between 90 and 100, the highest score given to companies that ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. According to the HRC Corporate Equality Index, companies receiving high ratings, like the airline companies, provide domestic partner benefits and adopt other supportive policies toward LGBT employees.
Gary Kelly, chief executive officer of Southwest Airlines, which received an HRC Equality Index rating of 90, serves as A4A‚Äôs chairman of the board, and the board is composed mostly of airline industry executives, according to industry observers.
It couldn‚Äôt immediately be determined by press time whether the airline officials who play a key role in the A4A‚Äôs operations were aware of the allegations against the association made in Farina‚Äôs lawsuit.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Laura Cordero on Dec. 26 dismissed a discrimination lawsuit filed by another gay A4A employee, David Duchow, on procedural grounds. Court records show that Duchow, who charged A4A with employment discrimination based on his sexual orientation, represented himself in the case without a lawyer.