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DOT Orders United To Spend $1.5-Million on Civil Rights Training

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) applauded the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) for reaching a constructive settlement with United Airlines concerning the airline’s alleged illegal discrimination against passengers who were removed from flights beause of their perceived ethnicity. According to an order issued by the DOT, United acted in a manner inconsistent with federal laws that prohibit discrimination. The order further requires United to provide annual civil rights training to its employees for three years at a cost of at least $1.5 million.
Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, ADC filed numerous complaints, and assisted others in doing so, with DOT against airlines for allegedly removing passengers based on their perceived ethnicity and/or religion. As a result of the complaints filed by ADC and passengers, DOT’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings instituted an investigation of United for security-related civil rights violations. While United maintained that no passenger was ever removed from a flight or denied boarding under unlawful circumstances, the investigation revealed that United unlawfully removed passengers from flights or denied boarding to passengers based on their race, color, national origin, religion or ancestry.
In June 2002, ADC joined the American-Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in filing lawsuits against American Airlines, United Airlines, and Continental Airlines alleging that the airlines engaged in the unlawful removals of Arab, Arab-American, Muslim, or South Asian passengers based on their perceived religion, ethnicity, or national origin.
Additionally, in April, 2003, DOT’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and
Proceedings filed a complaint against American Airlines alleging that the carrier unlawfully removed passengers from flights or prevented them from boarding in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws. A hearing in that case is pending before an administrative law judge.
ADC expressed its gratitude and congratulations to Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta and the DOT for taking this important step, which sends the clear message that the government will not tolerate illegal discrimination against airline passengers. When this pattern of abuse emerged in the weeks following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the DOT issued stern warnings to all US airlines that this form of discrimination was “not only immoral but illegal.” The settlement and pursuant order against United Airlines further underline the commitment of Secretary Mineta and the DOT to ensure that travelers are not discriminated against on the basis of their perceived race, ethnicity or religious affiliation.