28 Feb 2023 National Center and the American Civil Rights Project Demand American Airlines Rescind Illegal Race and Sex-Based Policies
Washington, D.C. – The National Center for Public Policy Research and the American Civil Rights Project (ACR Project) have demanded that American Airlines Group, Inc. (AA) rescind unconstitutional policies that discriminate based on race and sex.
American Airlines leaders’ adoption of the illegal policies was noted after it reversed a long-standing corporate policy of avoiding comment on controversial issues. In the interim, leadership has admitted that it “absolutely” considers race in hiring, specifically in terms of pilots.
“Hiring and promoting solely on the basis of merit is a core fiduciary duty of all publicly traded companies. Hiring pilots and other aviation personnel on any other basis is not just illegal and a breach of duty to shareholders and the flying public; it is quite frankly insane,” said Scott Shepard, director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project. “American Airlines must not only end these programs immediately, but put transparent policies and procedures in place to make sure that merit is the only metric it uses in any employment-related decision or process. Rejection of these demands could lead NCPPR to challenge these programs in court, as we did with Starbucks’ directors and executives, to end that company’s discriminatory policies and programs.”
Internally, AA leaders committed to “hire and retain” employees to “ensure the diversity of our team reflects the diversity of our customers.” American law forbade such race-balancing for its own sake generations ago.
Operationally, however, American Airlines annually adopts ill-chosen racial quotas. In 2021, it required more “representation” for a group already exceeding the national average in AA’s workforce. In 2022, it set thresholds for all “people of color,” despite AA’s data showing such groups’ “representation” varied radically – widely exceeding national averages for some while dramatically missing them for others. To help this “progress,” AA joined at least four racially-defined McKinsey executive training programs. Each program training enrollees for promotions followed two criteria: (1) participating organizations may only enroll employees of a specified race; and (2) AA controls qualifying employees’ enrollment. To further “clearly signal where the organization stands,” AA conditioned the compensation of its “entire leadership team” on their progress toward these racial goals.
Externally, AA leaders made a parallel “DEI commitment extend[ing] to our supply chain.” They committed to altering the demographics of AA’s suppliers, including through a discriminatory “Supplier Diversity Program” that qualifies vendors based on the race, sex and gender of their ownership.
“American Airlines policies inject race into the company’s internal and external contracting, which violates both state and federal law – including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and state laws where AA concentrates its operations,” explained ACR Project Executive Director Dan Morenoff. “None of this is legal or has been colorably close to it for decades. AA’s policies will draw legal challenges. AA’s admissions should assure it loses those challenges. Those cases cumulatively threaten to materially harm AA’s stock value.”
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