EEOC Sues United Airlines in San Antonio – Sexual Harassment
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit in San Antonio federal court, alleging that Chicago-based United Airlines Inc. discriminated against a flight attendant, identified as Jane Doe, by subjecting her to a sexually hostile work environment. United Airlines is one of the largest companies the EEOC has sued for alleged sexual harassment amid the #MeToo movement.
According to the lawsuit, a United captain, Mark Joseph Uhlenbrock, frequently posted sexually explicit images of a United flight attendant to various websites, making reference to the flight attendant’s name, home airport, and sometimes referencing the airline’s tagline “Fly the Friendly Skies.” The flight attendant worked for the airline since 1989.
Jane Doe had a consensual relationship with Uhlenbrock from 2002 to 2006, which she allowed him to take provocative pictures of her, and at least one picture without her permission. In 2006, a male San Antonio gate agent told Doe that he had seen nude photos of her on an internet website for “swingers” — a term used for swapping partners with others. The man also told Doe that he received additional photos of her after he began chatting with who he thought was her on the website. She ended her relationship with Uhlenbrock after he refused to stop sharing the images on the internet.
Over the next decade, Uhlenbrock continued to regularly post sexually explicit photos, videos, and stories about Ms. Doe on the internet. Despite filing three civil lawsuits against Uhlenbrock in 2009 and 2010 in Bexar County, the lawsuit said Uhlenbrock continued to post nude images of Doe on the internet. Uhlenbrock was ultimately arrested by the FBI in May 2015 and his computers were seized a few months later, the EEOC says.
Despite Uhlenbrock admitting in an interview with United officials of sharing the nude photos and the FBI’s involvement, the lawsuit said the airline continued to employ him throughout the federal investigation and court proceedings. United also granted Uhlenbrock long-term disability in January of 2016. He was paid by United Airlines and received benefits during this time. Uhlenbrock remained on United’s payroll until July of 2016 when he was allowed to retire with full benefits. In June 2016, Uhlenbrock was sentenced to 41 months in prison after pleading guilty to his stalking charge.