Legal Roundup: United Airlines Discrimination Lawsuit, Another Johnson & Johnson Opioid Suit and More

The latest court filings and cases that will have an impact on the risk management and insurance industry.
By: | September 28, 2020

Airline Allegedly Sought Blonde, Young Flight Attendants for MLB, NFL Planes

The Case: Flight attendants Kim Guillory and Sharon Tesler allege that United Airlines purposefully staffed flights for MLB, NFL, and NCAA teams with young, blonde, blue-eyed flight attendants. They are suing for discrimination, saying chartered flights for sports teams lead to increased pay and free game tickets.

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The Washington Post reports: “The lawsuit says more senior, Black and Jewish employees are not assigned to the flights, and that the plaintiffs were told by supervisors that they were not on the ‘preferred’ crew list for the charters. Guillory and Tesler, who are Black and Jewish, respectively, say they discovered that the women on the list were all young, White and have less seniority than them.”

A company rep told the newspaper, “flight attendant eligibility to work a charter flight is based solely on performance and attendance and has nothing to do with age, race or gender.”

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed and has not yet been adjudicated.

Takeaway: It’s impossible to know if the allegations are true, but discrimination of any type should be weeded out by company leaders. No matter what, United’s reputation may suffer due to the headlines about discrimination in the news cycle — although the company’s strong response could help.

Supermarket Workers: We Were Fired for Refusing to Wear LGBT Pride Symbols

The Case: Two former employees at supermarket chain Kroger, claim they were fired after refusing to wear aprons featuring the rainbow LGBTQ symbol.

Brenda Lawson and Trudy Rickerd “who identify as Christian, cited religious objections in their refusal to wear what they believed was an ‘endorsement of the LGBTQ community,’ according to the lawsuit,” according to NBC News.

The women, who worked at a Conway, Ark. store, said they were denied a religious accommodation to the dress code. Kroger told NBC News it does not comment on pending litigation.

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed and has not yet come to a resolution.

Takeaway: Religious freedoms have clashed with LGBTQ freedoms for years.

Perhaps the most famous case involved a baker in Denver who refused to make a cake for same-sex wedding. After many headlines and debate, the Supreme Court ruled that he cannot be forced to make the cake for the occasion.

When it comes to employment law, the high court appears more protective of alleged discrimination against the LGBTQ community. After a teacher at Covenant Christian School in Florida was fired for being gay, she won a 2020 Supreme Court case. In a 6-3 decision, it ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Johnson & Johnson Sued for $2B for Over Opioid Epidemic

The Case: New York has sued pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson over the company’s alleged role in the opioid crisis.

CBS News reports: “A division of J&J poured millions of dollars into marketing opioids and downplaying the risks, according to the lawsuit, announced Thursday. The company continued to promote the drugs even after government officials warned that opioids were much more dangerous than other pharmaceutical products, according to the suit.”

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Johnson & Johnson did not respond to a request for comment from CBS News.

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed and has not yet come to a resolution.

Takeaway: It’s not the first time Johnson & Johnson has faced scrutiny over the marketing of addictive painkillers. “The company has faced considerable litigation in other states related to opioid abuse. Last year, an Oklahoma judge ordered the drugmaker to pay nearly $500 million after ruling that it had fueled opioid addiction in the state,” according to CBS News. &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]